In a stark change to its business model, stock photo agency Getty Images has licensed millions of images from its archives for free non-commercial use on blogs and social media

Long established as the top name in online photo libraries, Getty images has made the startling move of making more than 35 million of its images free to use online with a new Embed Tool.

Pictures embedded from Getty’s library using the now publicly available embed code will come without a watermark, just a credit linking to the company’s licensing page.

The stock firm acknowledged that if people have hitherto wanted to use Getty images for free, it’s been very easy to do illegally simply by right-clicking. Now, the Embed method will allow users to easily click back to Getty and license the images for their own purposes.

Speaking to CNET Australia, Getty Images’ Craig Peters compared the stock image industry to the music industry, saying that before services such as iTunes and Spotify, people would steal music mostly because they had no readily available alternative.

‘Our job here is to provide a better alternative to stealing, not only one that’s legal but one that’s better,’ Peters said.

Getty have also discussed plans for monetisation of the service in future, mentioning the possibility using advertising in conjunction with the embedded images, in a fashion similar to YouTube.

Try out Getty’s image Embed tool at