Getty is not the only company engaging in massive editing of its file. Several Corbis photographers have been advised in letters from Ross Sutherland, Corbis Chief Creative Officer, that close to 50% of their images will be removed.
Getty contributing photographers were given advance notice that Stone, Taxi and Photonica images marketed for more than three years, but not sold in the last two, would be culled. The photographers were given the option to have these images returned or placed into the Photodisc RF collection on Punchstock. Punchstock is scheduled to become an entirely RF collection early next year.
When these images are moved to Photodisc on Punchstock they will be loaded as "new images," which should give them priority in the search order. Getty is also examining the possibility of returning scans to photographers so it is not necessary to re-scan images in order to market them through another venue.
Some Corbis photographers have asked for cpies of the digital files that are scheduled for removal, but no high-res files of removed images are available, even for a fee.
Several Getty Image Partners have said they have been ordered to choose 50% of their images for removal, or Getty will make its own selection. This indicates that there is a lot of editing still to be done, and Getty's file is likely to become significantly smaller.
It seems to be assumed that images that have not sold for two or three years will never sell because newer, better images will always be available. It that is the case, then the reductions in numbers should not have a major impact on revenue generated.
Stock photography used to be considered a long-term investment for a photographer. Many expensive generic productions were not expected to recover their total costs in the first year or so, but were expected to generate substantial income over a long useful life. That may not be the case in future, as newer images will supplant older ones.