American stock photo agency Getty images has raised concern amongst photographers after deciding to offer 35 million of its images for free online use.

The huge amount of images, which is almost a quarter of its entire archive, has been made available to any interested person to share online completely free of charge, a move which has been condemned by photographers and organisations around the world.

Getty has always previously charged for its images but found that it’s pictures were being reused and shared on blogs, news sites and social media without credit or authorised use. The agency has made numerous attempts to control use of its images online in the past, but so far they have all been unsuccessful.

Getty’s new policy offers a certain selection of images for free via its new embedding feature that provides acknowledgement and a link back to its website.

The decision has led many independent photographers to raise concerns about the fact that they are not going to be paid for work the may have otherwise sold. Getty has also admitted that it does not plan to inform photographers about when and where their images will be used.

Joe Naylor, the CEO of ImageRights International, a company who pursues copyright claims on behalf of commercial photographers, photo agencies and publishers, has spoken out about the impact that Getty’s decision will have on photographers.

‘Photographers have supplied content under a certain understanding they are going to be paid…’

‘Even if there’s no revenue, photographers want to know where [their picture] is and who’s using it, because that could inform them about what type of content they should focus on in future,’ Naylor says, pointing out that Getty’s policy was rolled-out ‘unilaterally’ – giving photographers no chance to opt out.

‘It’s not transparent, which is not a great way to build a relationship with your contributors.’

While the decision could prove to be a great opportunity for some photographers to commercialise their work, for others, the move is sending out the message that all images are available for free use.

Is Getty’s move just a sign of the times? What will the move mean for you? Let us know your thoughts via our Twitter page @photo_insurance!