Maybe Image ISN’T everything.

And maybe Getty Images IS.

Here at the official Amplitude Digital blog, we recently revisted the classic 1990 Canon TV spot starring then-reigning tennis “bad boy” Andre Agassi – and his epic feathered mullet.

Why? To highlight a fascinating new MIT study that showed just how deeply powerful images are when it comes to the human eye and brain. And just how ridiculously fast both are able to process those images.

Now comes news of a whole other kind of story involving images and speed.

As in…is Getty Images trying to pull a fast one on the American public?

The Seattle-based stock photo agency announced that its vast archive of 80 million photographs and images is now available to the public at large.

Up until now, Getty Images had licensed out its in-depth archive of rights-managed and royalty-free stock photos (including editorial coverage of sports, news and fashion events) for use by commercial and professional entities like media outlets, businesses, creative agencies and artists.

Now, nearly all of those images will all be available to anyone. To use anywhere. And they’ll all be available for…

That’s right. Free. As in no charge. Zero money down. Zero money due later. Gratis.

Granted, there is a catch to the deal. A caveat, if you will.

You can’t get them for free by merely downloading an image and uploading it to your website. No, you’ve got to embed it. And you have to use Getty Image’s embedding code to do so. Much like the embed features we’ve gotten used to on Flickr, YouTube and other sites, Getty’s Embed Images Tool produces the appropriate HTML to insert the picture into a social media or blog post.

Upon its launch, this embed feature is specifically designed to tie in with sites like WordPress and Tumblr, and on Twitter, links produce a card featuring the image and related information. The pictures won’t be watermarked, but they will link back to and include photographer attribution.

If you want to try this new feature out right now, just click here and then define your search terms. Find an image you like, then click on it. The image will pop up in a separate window. If the image can be embedded (another interesting caveat here is that not all can be embedded), you’ll see a small button with brackets underneath the photo. Then just copy the code onto your site, and you should be all set.

News of this decision by the notoriously tight-fisted and litigious Getty Images predictably received a boatload of publicity, criticism and press coverage. And even with its caveats revealed, this move by the Getty gang reminded us here at Amplitude Digital of that old adage:

“If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is.”

In this case, that adage certainly applies. Because that’s definitely what’s going on here.

Sure, the world’s largest photo service claims they’re doing this for all the right reasons. Like, say, advancing their core mission of developing a more beautiful world.

In Getty Images’ official announcement of the move, co-founder and CEO Jonathan Klein says as much:

“Innovation and disruption are the foundation of Getty Images, and we are excited to open up our vast and growing image collection for easy, legal sharing in a new way that benefits our content contributors and partners, and advances our core mission to enable a more visually-rich world.”

Then there’s talk that this decision was made because it’s a waste of the company’s time to chase or shake everybody down. Or sue them up and down.

We say it’s really quite simple.

Getty Images made this move because they want to become the YouTube of the online photo marketplace. And chances are it just might work.

Think about it.

Because Getty Images will force anyone who uses its photos and images to utilize an embed code, the effects on the SEO of the users’ sites is very similar to what happens when they use the embed code for YouTube.

Specifically, you’re no longer truly hosting the image on your site. Therefore, you lose the ability to show up in search engine results for that image. The embed code helps with organic search results for – not for your site or blog.

Additionally, you’re creating a link back to Getty Images and their site for that particular image, which means you’re essentially volunteering to serve as a “link builder” for For FREE. Naturally.

On top of all that, this embed code gives Getty Images the ability to run ads, track usage, and much more. Some are already speculating that Getty Images may start running ads through this embed code before too long. After all, the company has previously explored innovative advertising avenues, including partnering with San Francisco-based Stipple to explore in-image advertising.

Given recent announcements by Google that sites deemed too ad-heavy may not favor as well in organic search results, this is certainly something to keep an eye out for.

What do YOU think? Are you excited about this big move by Getty Images? Do you think you’ll use their Embed Image Tool to insert photos or images into your website or blog?

Let us know in the comments section below this blog post. We’d love to hear your opinion here.

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