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corbisTwo of the world’s leading photographic libraries, longtime rivals in the industry, are joining forces as a result of a pair of deals announced today.

Seattle-based Corbis, owned by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, this morning announced the sale of Corbis Images to an affiliate of Visual China Group — which then announced an exclusive distribution partnership giving customers of Getty Images access to Corbis Images’ library of content.

Getty and Visual China Group explained in a news release, “Getty Images will create specific collections to house this new content on, where it will sit alongside award-winning content from Getty Images’ own staff photographers, its network of over 200,000 contributors and from approximately 330 existing image partner relationships, including prestigious partners NBC Universal, BBC Worldwide and AFP.”

Financial terms of the acquisition and distribution partnership weren’t disclosed.

The acquisition by Visual China Group’s Unity Glory International Ltd. also includes Corbis’ Veer and Corbis Motion brands. The remaining Corbis Entertainment will focus on its entertainment advertising business, with plans to rebrand to a new name in the months ahead.

Corbis was founded in 1989 under the name Interactive Home Systems with the original idea that home owners could decorate their walls with interactive pieces of art which could be changed. Getty Images was founded in 1995, growing through a series of acquisitions.

The deal brings together two longtime rivals which have battled over the years for supremacy in the distribution of digital images. Getty Images co-founder and chairman Jonathan Klein was feeling pretty good about the outcome, noting in a Tweet:

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