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It can be hard to find good images on the web for free. While some people are happy to run a quick image search, slap something up on their blog and call it good, it can be harder for more copyright-conscious people to get a free image that also looks great.

Seattle-based Getty Images hopes to help people out by allowing users to embed stock photos for free on Twitter, Tumblr and non-commercial blogs and websites. While the company has always charged for its images in the past, their frequent use on commercial websites means that they turn up in image searches, which then leads to someone else using them without paying for a license. The new feature is designed to give people an easy way to keep within the bounds of the law and still get good images.

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When a user embeds an image they get from Getty, it will include attribution to the original creator, as well as a large link back to Getty’s site as well as buttons that allow users to share the image to Twitter, Tumblr, or get their own embed code. People can find images using filters in Getty’s search, and once they reach an image they’d like to embed, they can preview it to see what it’ll look like before inserting it into a page or post.

That means people who don’t pay for a stock photo will still be able to take advantage of its existence, without running afoul of the law.

Getty’s definition of non-commercial is also fairly liberal. So long as an image isn’t being used to directly promote a product or service, the company is okay with people embedding them for free, so long as they’re okay with using the embedded frame, according to a statement from a company spokesperson emailed to GeekWire.

Embedded Getty Images content may be used only for editorial, non commercial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). If the use promotes a company, product or service, the users will need to purchase a license. If not, they can use the embedded content so long as they are happy to use it in the embed frame and functionality.

The presence of ads on a site doesn’t automatically make use of an embedded image on that site a commercial use. Think about sites like CNN.com or any online newspapers or magazines which support editorial content with site ads. The key attribute in classifying use as commercial is whether the image is used to promote a business, goods or services, or to advertise something.  If not, it is a non-commercial use. Likewise, corporate blogs would be treated as editorial/non-commercial unless the image is directly being used to sell or promote their products or services.

The only way for users to get a clean version of the image without any branding is to license it from Getty, which is part of the company’s plan. By creating an easy pipeline from when someone sees an image they want to allowing them to buy it, Getty is planning that letting people use images for free will lead them to spend more money in the long run.

It’s a part of the agency’s continuing push to bring more official licensing to places where its images are being shared. Last year, Getty struck a deal with Pinterest that involves the social networking company paying Getty for access to its image metadata, which is then attached to the appropriate images on the site to provide context and credit to the original photographer.

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