Free Images From Getty/iStock On Google

Posted on 1/11/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (8)

Sean Locke (one of iStock’s highest earning contributors) discovered recently that some of his best selling images are now available on GoogleDrive for FREE.

On January 10, 2013 he started a thread on the iStock forum entitled “Google Stealing Images, or Another ‘Deal,” to see if other iStock contributors knew anything about this. So far the thread has over 400 angry posts and no clear explanation. I’ll try to summarize what seems to be known so far.

In April Google launched Google Drive and in August Google announced that they had created a gallery of stock photos that could be freely used in documents and presentation by Google Drive customers. Google also asked it’s users to help “curate” the photos that would be made available in this collection by going to and submit image numbers for up to 10 photos that they would like to see included in the collection.

Google would then use the recommendations to create a gallery of over 6,000 images that any Google Drive customer can “freely use.”

All customers have to do is go to and create a new document. Then press "insert" and select "image". In the dialog, pick "Search" and "Stock Photo". Once you have selected an image it appears in your document at 1,066 x 1,600 resolution. Initially,the image creator was not identified on the images Locke found. There is No attribution, No meta-data attached to the file, No license, and No link.

However, Locke has now been able to download all 6923 images available on Google. He has provided a link to a text list of the exif data that includes the Getty Images file numbers and many photographer names. In a number of cases the photographer is not identified. Locke has also put together a file that shows thumbnails of all the images along with the ID numbers and photographer names in many cases.

Google’s link about copyright says, "When using the Google Image Search feature in Google Docs, your results will be filtered to include images labeled with a license that allows you to copy the image for commercial purposes and modify it in ways specified in the license."

What’s Google’s Deal With ThinkStock?

It appears that Getty has made a deal with Google that allows them to select whatever image they want and for a one time fee make that image freely available to all Google Drive customers for unlimited use, in any manner, forever.

So what is that one-time fee?

iStock photographer “Gmutlu” found some of his Photographer’s Choice images in the Google Drive collection and when he checked his Getty statements he found the following sale:
    Product Type: Premium Access Time Limited
    Customer Name: Google eCommerce & Google Drive
    Gross Royalty (in USD): $12.00
Photographer “Imgorthand” found 2 sales on his Getty Images 31-Oct-12 sales report for a total of $24.00. So it looks like Getty photographers, at least, can expect to receive $12 whenever Google acquires one of their images. It is unclear what the iStock contributors are receiving.

The “Imgorthand” images were from iStock’s Vetta premium priced collection. Many of Sean Locke’s images were also Vetta images.

Photographer “guenterguni” pointed out that a Vetta file downloaded from GoogleDrive for free would have cost him $107.50 if he had purchased it from iStock in Europe. And, of course, he is only one of many people who may be using that image.

A high percentage of the GoogleDrive images are from iStock exclusive photographers, but there are also some of Yuri Arcurs images and he is non-exclusive with iStock. One of Chelsea Kedron’s images (96432957) from Getty’s Flickr collection is also found on GoogleDrive. The list price for that image on Getty at a file size of 1025 x 1025 px is $260 (or 225 British Pounds which is even higher). Chelsea will get $12 for unlimited use by multiple customers of this image.

What’s Getty Have To Say?

So what’s Getty have to say about all this? Claudia Micare, Getty’s manager of Contributor Relations said yesterday, “now I am working with iStock. There is so much conjecture here that I am afraid the string is more confusing than anything else so I wanted to ask that you hold on any more assumptions. As soon as we have all of the information we need we will post it for you. Yes it is not great that we didn't have this information ahead of it launching. New kinds of opportunities are happening very quickly these days, but we should have had this information earlier, that is not even a debate and we are working on this too in the background.??“When we post the detail there will be a lot to talk about I am sure. Questions and observations are fine but to avoid confusion and misinformation we should stick to the facts we have now. We are working on getting you more as we speak.”

Later yesterday Claudia posted, “We will come back on this tomorrow. Clearly there are a lot of questions that need answering and a lot to explore here. I just wanted to let you know that we will need at least several more hours to give you the clear picture and information, solutions etc. We know you are waiting so no more reminders are needed about the fact that you are waiting.”

So far they have been unable or unwilling to supply an explanation.

One photographer pointed out that during another crisis, Rebecca Rockafellar, iStock General Manager, said, “I don’t expect I can reassure everyone here that we have your best interests at heart, but we do. That’s because our interests are aligned – when iStock is successful we’re all successful.”

Copyright © 2013 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Jan 11, 2013
    Surely we can beat FREE.... next some agency will offer to PAY clients to use the image and then the agency will subtract the cost from the photographers, of course. Can't be the agency -- they have stockholders & investors that want their investment money.

    The race to the bottom continues ...

  • Todd Klassy Posted Jan 11, 2013
    I think it's time to set up a new trade association. Clearly the existing trade associations are not doing their part to protect their members.

    A new trade association will have three goals: (1) the complete democratization of the stock photo industry, in part by setting up a platform/website where users set their own price for stock images and where it removes the middleman, (2) educating those who give away images for free and chastising those who continue to do so, and (3) a legal team that vigorously prosecutes copyright infringement on behalf of the image's owner and the industry much in the same fashion that RIAA went after those who stole music.

    Who's in?

  • Ellen Boughn Posted Jan 11, 2013
    Jim, it might be interesting to look into just what the discount for authors is. This from the private URL for Random House writers:Getty Images offers preferred pricing for Random House authors. Hopefully it isn't anymore than a bulk pricing fee but how low can editorial photos go?

    "Random House authors can take advantage of our preferred pricing with Getty Images for any projects they are working on for Random House. For more information about the discounts available, please contact the Getty Images account representatives listed below and provide them with the following information about your Random House project:"

    Book title
    Publication Date
    Print run/Unit count
    Edition (format such as: HC, Trade Pb, ebook, etc)

    Getty Images account representatives:
    Nancy Matherson, Account Executive

    Jeanine LaBorne, Account Manager

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Jan 11, 2013
    I agree with Todd Klassy. With backing from ASMP, PPA and others, I think we should pursue this. I hate to commit the time, but I would be willing to be involved in this project.... as I'm sure you would be, Jim.

  • Matthew Sniff Posted Jan 11, 2013
    Check out for a site where you can sell your images for the price you want.

  • Todd Klassy Posted Jan 11, 2013
    Meh. We need an industry wide revolution; something that is strong enough to lure all photographers away from existing stock photo companies, grab attention, and establish sound legislation and business practices that bring an end to the things that have been crippling the industry for the past 10 years; image theft, the vultures stealing profits in stock photography companies, and educating amateurs that their photos are worth money.

    The first thing I would do would be to hire in-house counsel, including possible a intellectual property attorney that either works for or worked for the RIAA, and a former sales & marketing executive at Getty, Shutterstock, etc. Followed by an intensive membership drive. Tell me that wouldn't shake things up in the photo industry.

  • Bill Bachmann Posted Jan 12, 2013
    Todd.... I like the concept, but I know most photographers are not joiners. I think we should look into it. As far as Matthew's comment & site, there are several of them. But how do they draw attention away *and customers) from the already too powerful "big boys" stock agents??

  • Todd Klassy Posted Jan 13, 2013
    Most photographers will be joiners once their bottom lines are affected. Most aspiring professional photographers will join when they realize their dream may never be realized as the value for their work continues to dwindle because of thievery and money leeching middle men.

    As for drawing photogs away from Shutterstock and Getty, we will need to demonstrate with actions (i.e. make deadlines) that a trade association best represents the interests of photographers, not a private entity who leeches > 90% from the sale of their image. Initiate a few high profile RIAA type law suits with a press release that says, "If you stole a photographer's intellectual property, we will find you, and we will come after you," we'll get members. Then, possible, after weakening those other trade associations who do nothing but collect dues, maybe then they will merge with us, on our terms, and create one very loud voice for photographers once and for all.

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