Getty Images is well known for not only being one of the biggest players in image licensing on the Web, but also for for it’s harsh copyright enforcement tactics.
For years the company has been involved with a massive copyright campaign that has seen it send letters to tens of thousands of suspected infringers each year. The campaign works by using detection technology from PicScout, which it acquired in 2011, and then sending warning letters to those who are using their images in a commercial manner. Those letters typically demand not just the removal of the image, but a settlement, which was often as high as $1,000 per image.
Most recently in the campaign, Getty found itself being sued by an intellectual property law firm it targeted erroneously. However, the firm dismissed its case once Getty backed off of its claims.
But while the lawsuit was an unwelcome headline for Getty, in recent years the company has worked to soften its copyright image. In 2012 the company changed its watermark to be more user-friendly and earlier this year it began offering millions of photos for free embedding for non-commercial use.
Earlier this week, Getty Images launched yet another step in its campaign to court bloggers and non-commercial users when it released Getty Images Stream a free app for iOS and Mac that enables users to find, view, share and even embed select Getty Images.
So is this an app that you should look into for your photo needs or is it one to skip? I decided to download it and find out.
What is Getty Images Stream
For most of my testing I used the Mac app and the screenshots come from it. However, I’ll note differences between the versions as they arise.
The main focus of Getty Images Stream is to be a photo browsing application. As such, the feature set is fairly limited. The app is divided into a series of categories including Latest, News, Entertainment, Sports, Landscapes and so forth. The user then selects a category and is able to scroll through the images within it.
Once you find an image that you like, you’re able set it as your wallpaper, share it through various social networking sites, embed it onto your blog or mark it as a favorite within the app.
On the iOS version, your options are a bit more limited as you can only choose to favorite or share the photo, though sharing has a “Copy” option that copies the embedding code to your clipboard.
Bear in mind that Getty’s terms of service strictly forbids the use of embedded photos on commercial sites or tampering with the HTML code to remove credits or other elements.
Still, there are many who run personal sites that might appreciate having photos from Getty Images in their work. They, along with those who just want to share interesting photos with their friends, will likely find it very disappointing.
While the lack of commercial use is an obvious but understandable limitation, the entire app is very basic and doesn’t lend itself to finding specific images or many possible uses.
The biggest limitation is the lack of a search function. There’s no way to seek out a specific image you want other than visiting the category it is most likely to be in and hoping for the best.
However, even if there were a search function, it’s unlikely it would do much good. Each category has only a few dozen images and it’s unlikely that you’d find what you’re after. For example, if you want to find a photo of basketball, there were only three in the sports category as I wrote this. If you wanted a photo of duck, you’d be completely out of luck as there were none in the animals section when I looked.
Meanwhile, Morguefile, a free stock photo site, has hundreds.
But even if you were to strike gold and find the perfect photo, there aren’t many options for what to do with the photo. Embedding the image only gives you the option to copy the code. You can’t select the size, alignment or anything else. You simply get what you are offered.
In short, it’s difficult to find the photo you want, which the app probably won’t have and, even if it does, your ability to use it is severely limited.
So, if you’re looking for photos for your non-commercial blog, this likely isn’t the place for you.
The Main Advantage
That being said, there is one key advantage to the app: The quality of the images.
Every photograph in Getty Images Stream is of the highest quality. While most stock photo sites, in particular free ones, are hit and miss when it comes to image quality, Getty Images Stream is nothing but great photos.
I especially enjoyed the archival photos. Many key historic photos are in there including ones I immediately recognized from major news stories and elsewhere.
So the best use of the app isn’t to find images to reuse, but rather, to just scroll through and look at great images. But if that’s all the app was meant for, then the sharing and embedding features are superfluous. But if those features are core to the app, then they are limited and poorly implemented.
So while it’s a great app for scrolling through some excellent images, that’s about all it is, despite the added features that make it seem like a great deal more.
While Getty has worked hard to soften its image on copyright matters, those efforts have yet to produce a viable solution for bloggers and non-commercial users. For most, Getty-owned images remain impractical to use.
That, by itself, may not be a bad thing. Getty Images makes its money off of commercial licensing of images but its made repeated efforts to try and court attributed and embedded non-commercial use of its photos. However, those efforts have been limited and largely futile.
On that front, Getty Images Stream is simply more of the same, a very limited app that, while containing some great images, doesn’t offer a lot to non-commercial users or anyone that goes beyond casually browsing images.
For your average blogger looking for legal images to use, this app is a pass, though a few simple feature tweaks could make significantly more usable.
Below is a sample image taken straight from the app with no manipulation of the source code.