Squarespace 7 and Getty Images

TL;DR

My advice is: Use Squarespace and avoid Getty Images.

First, a word about notable interests and biases:

1) Copyright is important. In 2010 two friends and I created Wylio, a service that helps people find and attribute Creative Commons images uploaded to Flickr. It's a part-time project built to help people respect copyright when using free images on blogs and websites. It's not a significant source of income.

2) Squarespace is where Rachel's blog and this blog are currently hosted. I have found Squarespace to be a great platform for many situations and have recommended it to friends and family alike, who now use it.

3) Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, is also on the board of directors for Squarespace and has an impressive resume that includes work for many good causes. I don't know him personally, but from what I've read, he seems like a good person.

Inspiration for this post

Squarespace recently revealed Squarespace 7. Along with sweeping user interface innovations, one of the flagship features of Squarespace 7 is the Getty Images integration.

This feature allows you to purchase licenses for Getty images through Squarespace to use on your website for $10 / picture.

A question came up in the Squarespace answer forums about using free images from Getty. That thread, coupled with our Getty images story below is the inspiration for this post.

Getty Images, a stock photo company owned in part by the Carlyle Group as of 2012, made news earlier this year when they announced the ability for bloggers and website owners to freely embed images from their library. This feature is for non-commercial use and there's also some other restrictions to be aware of, but overall not a bad deal.

However the less flattering news Getty has been making for years now concerns their use of what they call "settlement demand letters."

Our Getty Images Story

In 2012 my wife Rachel and I found ourselves on the wrong end of one of these Getty Images demand letters for a blog post Rachel wrote three years earlier, in 2009 (pre-Wylio for those keeping track) about Henry David Thoreau.

Getty claimed they owned the rights for the image of Thoreau she used to illustrate her post and demanded that we pay $700 to avoid further escalation of the issue. They included screenshots of her blog with the letter.

Classy.

Rachel found a public domain image through a Google image search and it was the same image used on Wikipedia.

At first I thought the letter was part of a phishing scheme and not from Getty at all. I was wrong. After ignoring the first letter we soon received another. Each letter included easy instructions telling us how to pay the "settlement fee" online. There were also instructions for how we could contact Getty Images about this matter if we felt that we were not at fault.

This prompted me to spend a few hours online trying to understand exactly what was going on.

After a stressful week or so with the choice of either dealing with an "escalation" from Getty or paying Getty $700 for an image that was in the public domain, I decided to follow the instructions in the demand letter to contact Getty.

I decided to do it by email, took the time to research the image in question, provide Getty with the facts about the image's origin and explained that we had done nothing wrong. Sent.

I soon received a reply from Getty. They considered the matter closed. Whew! That was an awful experience, what a relief.

But there's a big problem with this entire scenario. Getty sent us this letter without adequate due diligence. If I was able to figure out that this image was in fact not something Getty had rights to, shouldn't they have done that before sending the letter?

This is where the real issue comes into play. It appears to be a numbers game for Getty.

They send mass amounts of demand letters, some may be for actual copyright infringement of intellectual property they own rights to, others may not. This pushes the burden of proof onto the people who received the letters, prompting them to either do the leg work of proving their own innocence or pay a fee to avoid escalating the situation.

Either way it's a win-win for Getty's bottom line and a lose-lose for the recipient of the letter. Chances are that most people will either provide adequate proof they did nothing wrong or at some point they'll pay the fee to prevent further escalation, and the continuing demand letters.

In the first situation, the recipient of the letter has done Getty's due diligence for them, essentially working for free. In the second situation the recipient is a source of revenue.

If I remember it correctly, Getty reminds you in the demand letter that escalation may cause additional legal fees to be added on top of what they're already asking for.

These practices are scarcely distinguishable from extortion. It's wrong.

I'm not the only one who thinks something is amiss. According to the International Business Times, Getty recently sent one of their settlement demand letters to the Schneider Rothman IP Law Group and the Florida based law firm is now suing Getty over the matter.

So where does this leave you with Squarespace and Getty Images?

Squarespace and Getty Images

Again I say beware.

First, know that there are some very real restrictions. According to the Squarespace terms regarding Getty images:

"Licensed Material may only be used in End User Works created via the Licensee Website, for display solely in digital form."

In other words you can only use Getty Images photos you buy through Squarespace on works created through Squarespace.

So what exactly happens if you ever decide to move your website away from Squarespace? I don't know. Maybe nothing. Or maybe in a year or two an old post you wrote will get flagged as as containing an infringing photo and you'll get a demand letter. If you do, perhaps you could argue a that post was created while you were on Squarespace. The problem is, you'll be the one who has to prove it.

According to the Squarespace 7 FAQ,  regarding the licensing:

Images purchased through Squarespace are licensed for use on your site at a web-friendly resolution. To obtain further licensing rights for an image, use the link in the interface to obtain those rights from Getty Images.

It sounds like any licensing outside of the $10 / image agreement between Getty and Squarespace is handled by Getty Images. If that's true, it'd be good to brush up on your understanding of Getty's licensing terms

Conclusion

So, should you use Getty images on your Squarespace site? That's up to you. I'm not planning to.

That said, if you decide to use images from Getty, I'd recommend that you remove all of them from your site if you ever migrate away from Squarespace.