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Getty's New Watermark (gettyimages.com)
296 points by tortilla on May 26, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 143 comments

I think this is great - it's either a win or no-worse-than-it-used-to-be, depending on the kind of Getty client you are.

If you're a designer at an agency (which would use watermarked photos in their comps, and then purchase proper rights once the client has approved) this is no worse than it used to be. You still have a watermarked image, it's just slicker looking. Having the URL in there is handy, but you would have recorded that anyways as part of your workflow. It's worth noting that the license behind these images still hasn't changed - you're only allowed to use them for 30 days, and not in a finished commercial product.

The other kind of client is the small-time blogger who would never pay for the image rights anyways, and would just use a watermarked comp shot in a post. According to the click-through license agreed to when downloading these images, this client type shouldn't exist - it's explicitly against what's permitted in the license - and yet it does, widely. For these clients, putting the URL in the image is a win for Getty; people who used these images will keep using them, but now those clients' viewers will be able to easily track the image back to its source, making it easy to actually purchase the image legally. This turns someone using a Getty image without permission from a problem (violating a license) to effectively free advertising.

The obvious next step - although I bet this would be difficult based on all the pre-existing contracts with the photographers - would be to accept that the second type of client exists, change the license on the comp shots, and try to bring them into the Getty fold. Change the license to say that you're allowed to use the images anywhere online you'd like for free, as long as the photo and watermark stays intact and your number of average monthly unique users is less than, say, 10,000. Doing this would take a sizable user base and turn them from license-violators into free advertising. Financially, this wouldn't affect 90% of the type-2 clients (they'd stay under the viewership cap), and would only impact the bottom line of mid-sized publications, who really should be paying for the rights anyways.

I think that by having many users using the image for free - even with the restrictions, you are devaluing the ability to sell it to people who will actually pay. Who wants to use a stock image that is absolutely everywhere?

For type 2, what about allowing them to be embedded and linked from the gty.im server (which could enforce the 10k hits limit, do analytics/tracking, etc.), for free?

I like it - but I'd do both. No matter how nice the service gty.im would offer, there would be people out there who wouldn't want to link to the Getty servers, who would just choose to copy/paste anyways, or who would get stopped by the signup and clickthough requirements.

Maybe make gty.im a value-added free service - users could use the comp shots free for X users/month (where X is enough to cover only small/local sites), and then the next tier (X to 3X, say) would be hosted off gty.im, either for free or for a nominal fee. It'd provide analytics, a better-quality image, and would indirectly act as a sales funnel for moving up to a full Getty contract - and even if it didn't, it would start the relationship between Getty and small/independent publishers who have never thought about image rights.

This is seriously better than the old "gettyimages" watermark. And it's a very thoughtful way to get traffic back to their website. It (almost implicitly) expects people to use and share the watermarked image.

I predict a greater use of watermarked images and greater traffic back to Getty Images.

They could've made shorter URLs if they used numbers and letters (base 36).

The short URL link isn't just random, it correlates to the image's "Creative Image Number".

Ah, so powerusers can just write down the number and know it's the Getty "Creative Image Number" and look it up at their liesure. Very clever.

Not sure if there are any comparative studies about it, but aren't random numbers a lot more readable than random alphabets (with numbers)? I have read people raise this issue with IPv6. Choosing to use just numbers seems like a good idea to me.

Phone numbers in the U.S. used to have a exchange name followed by numbers (the most famous example is "Pennsylvania 6-5000"). Folks would dial "P-E" (which is why there were letters on the old dial phones) and then the digits.

I can assume that they fell out of favor because human memory favored the "3 digit-4 digit" chunking of the phone number rather than the "two letter-5 digit" chunking.

Those pictures look really nice, so I clicked through to see how much it would cost to use them on a website. It asked me all kind of bullshit questions like which industry I want to use them in, whether it's a site or an ad, TBH I don't think there's even a good way to answer their question. At the end it gave me a quote of $160 to use the image for a 1 month period. What a joke.

Are you at least moderately aware of the average costs and profit margins for that kind of photography? u$d 160 a month is sort of on the cheap side for the kind of images in that landing page, specially if you are thinking about the katana one. And of the stock photo services, Getty is by far the one that treats the photographers with most respect and compensates them very competitively.

Getty isn't after anyone that thinks 160 is expensive. They're after companies/individuals that understand 160 is much cheaper than paying 1+ professional for n hours to "maybe" get a usable shot.

Having said that, the profusion of really really good modestly priced pro-am cameras has spawned an ugly race-to-the-bottom on stock photography. You can get ( often quite good ) stock photos for next to nothing from the low cost stock photography sites.

To put it in HN parlance, Getty's model has been thoroughly 'disrupted'.

None of the images on that landing page can be achieved with only a moderately priced pro-am camera. I understand your point, but Getty's model has not been disrupted and in fact they have no real competition. Getty offers professional images in a stock-like pricing model, short of agencies like AP there is no direct competition to them.

Lets go one by one on the photos on that landing page in terms of minimum equipment and people behind them... short obviously of a camera and an achieved photographer, that is already hard enough to come by and expensive but is a common factor in all images.

Katana image: model, make up, big room with stupidly expensive lamps, costume, katana, watermelon, more than one 1k/2k+ flash head.

War image: ticket to war zone, bulletproof vest, AK-47, missile launcher, missile, model/combatant. Very likely many pro camera bodies, pro to resist dust, many to have spares. You won't find a pro body there if one breaks up, unless you can loot a dead photographer.

London image: helicopter, helicopter pilot, weather controlling machine (can be replaced by an insane amount of luck or many tries and a lot of time in each one).

Guy with car hat: model, car hat, not sure if only one flash head or camera mounted strobe. I'm not sure of how much a car hat costs but I think this is the cheapest photo of the lot.

I agree these examples of high-end Getty photographs don't have a lot of competition, but I do think they've been losing their formerly strong grip on a wider range of middle-end stock photography, which traditionally was a big money-maker for them (and photographers) due to being high-volume. Nowadays there are a lot of alternatives for run-of-the-mill stuff like "photo of guy working at a cubicle", "photo of multi-racial group in a park smiling", "cheesecake on a plate with strawberry topping", etc.

Not looking for any argument here - the shots on the landing page are great examples of what Getty does and can continue doing.

I agree that the serious hobbyists that feed micro stock companies those 2 dollar pictures will not compete with warzone shots, shots requiring $$$ cost in travel, props, lots of models or whatever to set up unless they happen to be professionals "double-dipping" on a paid shoot. The cash just isn't in it.

The Micro-stock guys might surprise you though at how much cash they have invested in gear ( including lights ) Some of them take perfectly good photos of subjects that might previously have only been sourced more expensively through agency or in house.

After playing with Google Earth and its 3D buildings, I'm pretty sure the London pic is taken from Broadgate Tower. :-)

NB I was curious what the low linear building in the lower center of the image is - it's the roof of Liverpool Street Station.

Yes, you're right, it would cost a lot to create the katana image by hiring a hot blonde martial-arts expert, buying or renting a katana, and rigging expensive lights in a fancy hotel ballroom. It would cost a lot to create the war image by commissioning a photojournalist to sneak professional gear into a conflict zone. Etc., etc.

Or some reasonably talented kid with Blender (or a warezed copy of Maya) could knock them all out in a weekend, without spending a dime on anything not made by Domino's Pizza or the Coca-Cola Company.

If not now, then soon.

You can do war zone photography for $10k or so in gear. It's really just the opportunity cost of a skilled photographer going.

I take issue with your 'ugly-rate-to-the-bottom' unless you can explain to me how that is any different from anything else capitalism has made cheap enough for the masses to buy?

I called it an "ugly-race-to-the-bottom" because the micro stock niche debases the art and makes the photographer's work into a commodity judge mainly on its' cost. I don't know about you, but I won't take an afternoon setting up a shoot, utilize thousands of dollars worth of gear, spend more time selecting/post processing and then submit it to a service that will sell the rights for 1 dollar and pay me pennies.

The micro stock model has worked because pricing was high. It's swung the other way. Fair value is not received in many cases.

s/the art/my ability to make money off the art/

If you want Art, you can go put up a gallery, and whine there about how the little people who aren't paying you money don't properly appreciate your vision.

If you want business.... Economics 150, friend: In an efficient market, the marginal cost of a new unit of something is the same as its price. If that's less than what you think is "fair", perhaps that's a signal that (a) there are too many people in this market, don't bother, use your skills and/or equipment elsewhere, or (b) someone else can get snazzy photos to people-who-buy-snazzy-photos more efficiently than you.

The price of photographic equipment, the price of introduction to stock-photo companies, the price of accepting-stock-photo-company-terms-and-conditions, and the price of browsing-stock-photo-catalogs have all fallen dramatically thanks to technology and the Internet. That run-of-the-mill stock photos are now much cheaper ought to be expected.

> "debases the art"

Surely if "the art" is actually a quality that objectively exists and has value, it will resist attack from those that lack it.

Aren't there plenty of folks who would give away the images for free, even if it took them a day, just because they love doing photography, and are thrilled at the idea of anyone using their images at all?

Like there are many coding free apps for Android and making no money doing it... kids or first timers. I believe in few years there will be less of both, as the first generation doing this has turned bitter and told everyone who cares to listen not to make the same mistake.

Now we are living exceptional times in that cost of hardware to do good work is so cheap that anyone can have a go at photography / programming / ...

The two biggest of Getty's "competitors" are owned by Getty (iStock and StockExchange).

Getty makes its money on both ends. They're also slowly rising the purchase prices for both user submission sites to be around $70/photo average compared to $10-20 two years back.

To answer your question, no I'm not. My major problem was with the problematic question about the license, which I feel are impossible to answer precisely for an average small business owner with 5 minutes on his hand, which then leads to a situation where I pay a lot of money for an image but still may be violating their copyright, because I misunderstood their questions. Also, I really don't think these images are 100x better than the ones on iStockphoto, but they cost 100x more. But, if their business model is doing well, then who am I to comment on it.

The questions are there to find out if you can license the image; rights may already have been licensed for certain uses (regional, publication type/genre, etc.). If your intended use overlaps with an existing license that has exclusivity, you can't use it. Even if you're the first one in, your use affects the remaining licensable rights in the image.

Let's take the katana image, f'rinstance. You want to use it for your French-language extreme cookery magazine? Cool. That leaves the image available for the Karate-gi supplier's worldwide site and catalog, as well as for publication in languages other than French (unless you wanted a worldwide print publication exclusive). If you want first publication rights and exclusivity for a year, you've tied up all other rights in the image.

The rights you want in the image may or may not be available, and if they are available, they will determine the licensing fee because they affect the remaining rights. If you go to a place like iStockphoto, you don't get any kind of exclusivity, and can find that every one of your competitors are using exactly the same images you are using. Oh, and so is the weekend "contractor" down the street—you know, the guy with the Skilsaw, cordless drill/driver and Workmate who ruins people's bathrooms and kitchens (but is so affordable). You get what you pay for.

Welcome to the professional stock photo industry - that's what shots like that cost to use.

If you'd like something cheaper (which generally won't look as good, won't have the metadata searching capabilities you needs as a professional photo editor, or may not go with the story you're trying to illustrate), the market will provide - in the form of iStockPhoto and others.

Getty's main client base doesn't ever purchase just one photo, will rarely look at the price on the website (they know what they need, and already know roughly what it will cost), and more often than not will have their own separate pricing contract with Getty that looks nothing like that series of drop-down boxes.

If you're searching for an individual photo, looking at the price, and considering if you need it - you're just icing on the cake for Getty, as opposed to the target of their business model.

That $160 includes the royalty. It's the decision of each photographer whether to ask for one. If you don't like that, google for "royalty free stock photos", which is the much more popular way of licencing photos.

Even Getty has such a section: http://www.gettyimages.ch/creativeimages/royaltyfree

Of course, the really great looking photos often are not royalty free, which is why Getty features those on that page.

Okay, I don't get it. What's the joke?

Saying "$160? What a joke." puts you in the same category as the guys on rentacoder asking for $100 Photoshop clones.

Keep in mind that they're really big, and their clients are huge companies with deep pockets.

There're a lot of cheaper alternatives with a very direct pricing. See for instance: http://photodune.net/

There are other cheaper alternatives example: Bigstockphoto = $1 - $8 per image/use (if you use credits)

However Getty does have some really nice images!

Exactly you are paying for quality, and rarity. Not many cheap stock photo agencies have archive photos of US presidents: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=1075...

Thanks for all the answers to my rant. I'm a regular customer at iStockphoto, but for some reason I wasn't aware of higher-end options like Getty. Based on some of the comments is this thread it seems to me their business model is like "Enterprise Sales", some guy landing on their page getting a good price is not how their model works. That sucks, because I wouldn't mind paying 5-10x over iStockphoto for a great picture, but 50-100x is too much.

Enterprise sales is exactly right, with the enterprises being the biggest ad agencies, media companies, and corporate cients on the planet.

A lot of these folks are keenly interested not just in the images themselves, but also in the contexts and markets where they may have previously appeared. Often, the fewer associations an image has, the more likely they are to buy it. And if they want to ensure that no one else buys something they're working with, they'll pay very substantial amounts for full exclusivity.

(Honestly, photos from 60 years ago ought to be in the public domain.)

If you think that's expensive, go try to find a similar image on iStock.

Are there also invisible watermarks on the images?

The files have metadata to help find the source.(Digimarc used to be implemented also.) The meta data is easily removed as is editing out the watermark.

However those aren't ever going to be paying customers anyway. When you license stock, you get more than just the high resolution file, but also 1. exclusivity if you've requested it and the necessary waivers to use the image in the way intended.

For example, a night time shot of the Eiffel Tower requires a waiver, as the light show is subject to copyright. (Believe it or not!) While a day shot won't require a waiver.

Not having a legitimate waiver is asking for a damages case by the owner, those depicted or other entity. This is covered in most countries via copyright & publicity laws.

Getty used to use Digimarc's steganographic watermarking technology, but I don't know if they still do.

Apparently not, just tried to unsuccessfully read the Digimarc watermark off a random Getty photo in Photoshop…

I'm not sure if you're asking whether or not there's information encoded in the image's metadata, or whether they're using some sort of additional watermark that appears when the image is downloaded or copied, ala this article[1].

If you're asking about metadata, I can say that on the Getty images I've used in the past (not for years though, so it's old data,) they were pretty diligent about ensuring Authorship information in the metadata. I can't remember whether or not there were any specific Getty attributions in there, like a link back to a page it could be purchased from, but in other comments here I see that they have a 'creative ID', which I didn't know about, so it's possible I just glossed over it.

If you're asking about the second, I believe the answer is no, but I say so without having tried it, even cursorily.


I assumed he was asking about a third option - imperceptible digital watermarking.

Is that not the same as the second? The second method can be generally be detected programatically, but is invisible to the human eye.

I was going to question the usefulness of an invisible watermark, as you could otherwise just compare a hash of the image, but I suppose an invisible watermark would likely persist through re-editing / resizing?

Another site that takes IP address to force the language, even after chaning it back to .com. Sigh.

I don't even have a non-english language listed in my browser preferences.

Apparently they expect people to use their javascript widget to select a home country, and then send you to e.g. http://www.gettyimages.com/Creative/Frontdoor/NewWatermark?L...

This links redirects me to the local language version with the Language=mylanguage in the url. This is beyond annoying.

What kind of redirect is used? Maybe you can get around it by blocking scripts.

It sent me to the en-GB language page (correctly) but I have noscript on so I'm guessing they did that via browser header, the selection in the top-right showed "international" though.

FWIW http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Creative/Frontdoor apparently gives some details about the server, the directory structure and the auth system in place that might not be worth exposing to external IP addresses.

Designers use these watermarked images when goofing around at the beginning of the creative process because they can't buy the dozens of image they need before actually knowing which one will be accepted by the client. Some images can be cheap, of course : royalty-free photos often are, compared to those with "exclusive rights", for example, but it would still take too much time and money. I know: I've spent countless hours looking for businessmen/women in Getty's and other databases. When you come up with 30 or 40 possible images and it's time to try them all in your comp it will be really hard to like this stupid square.

Such a temporary picture MUST be neutral because you need it to fit your composition/layout. This rectangle is the opposite of neutral: it's huge and very visible. This big square is going to clash more often than not with other shapes around the image which won't be aligned with it provoking all kinds of troubles for the designers who use them. Clients will think that the square is part of the designer's intent and, when it will be explained to them that no, this big ass square isn't part of the design they will rightfully say "Well, get rid of it!". But it won't be possible without paying large buckets of money to Getty.

Or using another service.

I just typed in the address listed on the sample image and, due to the contrast between the text and the image, mistook it as "gly.im". Did anyone else notice this?

I noticed the same thing. The typeface choice makes it easier to confuse "t" and "l".

This watermark takes up way too much of the image, but I suppose that's the whole point; they don't want to make it easy to crop out the attribution.

This may seem like an intractable tension, but I don't think it necessarily has to be--at least not in the following situation:

1) The content creator cares more about attribution than monetization.

2) The content sharer cares more about sharing unobstructed images than about passing off the content as their own original creation.

In this case, there could be some sort of standard metadata that accompanies the image and is only displayed upon some user interaction, such as a mouseover. We could even use steganography[1] to do this right now, without needing to settle upon a new image format.

I realize this is a bit too idealistic to be taken seriously. Just interesting to think about, is all.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steganography

For these images, the content creator is Getty ("they" didn't press the shutter button, but they paid for the shoot and own the images) - and they certainly care more about monetization than attribution.

SignMyImage -- Protect your images from copying by invisible watermarking.


"1) The content creator cares more about attribution than monetization."

I wouldn't bet on that, if you're talking about a professional photographer.

If see a thing of the form <three letters>.<two letters that aren't a country I know>/<newline><huge number>, it doesn't really occur to me that it's supposed to be a URL. Doesn't help that in their big example image, the "gt" of gty.im kind of blurs into the bright bit of the image it is laid over.

Apart from the pet-peeve of the missing http://, is splitting URLs across lines a thing now?

The watermark is primarily for the web-developers and web-masters that have not yet paid for a licensed copy of the image and are just marking things up on the page.

If you're smart enough to find the image, download it, embed it in your website, you're smart enough to figure out the rest.

It's not ment to be used on a production/deployed website to drive traffic to getty. It's just a reminder to you.

I dunno. I immediately saw it as a URL, because honestly, what else would it be?

I thought it was a product code.

Any decent product code should be a URL...

It's both.

http://? What's that? My Firefox and Chrome don't show that.

It's a functional programming thing; stands for "Haskell Time To Party". It might sound funny, but it is very, very serious and esoteric.

This week a coworker and I (more than 10 years of admin experience each) spent 15 minutes wondering why one internal web server was not reachable from a specific computer. Turned out that we got so used working with Firefox and Chrome that we forgot IE8 doesn't understand an address like IP:port/ if you don't specify the protocol (http://IP:port/).

As the Zen of Python says, explicit is better than implicit.

As my fingers say, thanks for the reduced keystrokes.

So, as I just learned recently, the <huge number> is their 'Creative ID'. People who use Getty images enough know that they can just track that number and look up images from Getty.

So, in a sense, you're right. It is both a URL and a 'product code'.

Getty Images is all over the web. And while initially it might be like you say, I think it will eventually become some sort of branding that people will learn to use.

What do they do for almost-white images? Hopefully at some threshold they switch to black test. Even at that, a black/white tiled checkerboard image would leave the url illegible. They should have outlined the white text in black.

Also, it looks fairly easy for an "unfair use"-er to "heal" the watermark away. They should consider a watermark with higher entropy. (like a stipple-shaded box or one with subtle random variation in shade around the box edge.)

You don't really need a higher entropy. It's enough to have a strong enough shade, so the shaded part loses enough color information that when you undo the shade that part looks posterized. That way an "attacker" needs to work a lot more on the picture, as it's not easy to add the lost color information again without adding a blur to that part.

Yes, they clearly thought thru the white-image issue: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/ice-extreme-close-up... The box is just a low-contrast region (not adaptive). But I still think there will be lots of conditions where it will be tough to read. http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/chess-board-royalty-...

If you register and log in, you get a watermark-free image. It even suggests this on the image info page...

You, sir, are clearly thinking like an engineer.

These watermarks are a lot less annoying, but if I remember correctly the old watermarks were centered on the image, right? These new right-justified ones seem like they could be fairly easily abused. It took my about 30 seconds to find one like this:


Pretty easy to crop out the right shot and have a perfectly fine, watermark-less photo.

On the other hand, like most DRMish solutions, I guess if you're dedicated enough to not paying for works like these, you will.

I have never really understood why stock photo stores insist on aggressive watermarks. They don't help their business, rather the opposite. The number of people who can get by with a low resolution preview image are going to be private users who are never going to buy the image anyway. (Especially with sites like sxc.hu where you can just get high resolution photography for no cost.)

As someone who works with stock photos constantly, I can tell you that clients hate seeing watermarks, they're usually right in the way of the useful part of the image and are often distracting. As a result the art department photoshop them out which is painstaking and a waste of time for a low resolution image that is only going to be used once.

I'm pleased that this new watermark is very easy to undo/disguise. Getty seem to understand that stock-pirates are fine with using low-resolution, highly compressed preview images without a license, while their actual customers need images with watermarks that are unobtrusive and easier to sell to the paying-client.

The truth is that the image need only a very minor watermark, so the creative can track down the original. Creative agencies aren't stupid and are well versed in the laws that relate to stock images. They don't use random photos they find on the internet, and larger or risk-absolving clients will often require a copy of the license and waiver for the stock imagery.

I think the new watermark is fantastic, it is definitely way better than their old watermark (a million times over). If you ever saw what the old watermark looked like, it ruined the images so much. Check out this image with the old watermark here: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m3bvopcnLC1qbi7o0o1_400.jp...

The watermark obscures vital detail in the image, kind of destroys the feeling of the original photo. So those of you who can only seem to muster up negative comments, go back to 4chan. The new watermark is innovative in an industry that feels like its been the same forever.

Anyone have examples of their old watermarks?

Seems like it would be easy to make a GIMP script to remove. I think the watermark needs more entropy/randomness to make it more difficult to separate the image from the watermark.

All these comments about a silly watermark and not one mention of Getty Images's contemptible RIAA-like business tactics of shaking down people who use their photos illegally? The owner of my daughter's daycare had posted one of their images on a simple little website he built for us parents, and they sent him a letter demanding a few hundred dollars or were going to take him to court for thousands (he paid up). Apparently they must have some type of crawler that searches the Web for their images.

It obviously depends on the numbers involved, but from your brief description nothing sounds wrong. It's pretty hard to "accidentally" stumble onto a Getty image used without a copyright statement which could lead you to think it's free to use, and a few hundred bucks is about what Getty charges as the rack-rate for a small business using one of their images (as you can see from their website).

Maybe there are details I'm missing, but you don't mention any RIAA-like practices or gross inflation of the cost/damages.

You might be right - I've never been in the situation - but he claimed to have taken it from some other site without any obvious copyright notice. Obviously not a smart move, and he did pay a price for it. The whole topic got brought up because I was planning on interviewing in one of their Rails shops and by doing research on the company I had stumbled across stories of people that had this exact thing happen to him, so I was shocked when he explained that it had happened to him as well.

I don't think the "fee" is unreasonable if a few hundred dollars is the going rate for licensing the image (although I personally would never pay that much), I just find the automated process of hunting these people down and asking for money right away (no option to just take it down immediately) a little distasteful, and in a similar vein to the RIAA's tactics.

Why should you get the option to 'take it down immediately'? You've already caused the harm / received the benefit / etc., and you should pay for it.

Did that daycare owner really cause a harm worth hundreds of dollars - was the picture devalued that much by posting it on a micro website visited by maybe a dozen people? I think it helps to be a little objective here. I mean, I'm as capitalist as the next guy, but I fail to see how taking taking hundreds of dollars away from a small business owner who is technologically naive is correcting an imbalance in the free market.

It's a slippery path from there to charging arbitrarily ridiculous amounts like [$15K][1] for a violation, leading to insane lump sum damage amounts like [$75 trillion][2].

[1]: http://arbornet.org/~danpeng/ [2]: http://www.pcworld.com/article/223431/riaa_thinks_limewire_o...

I won't argue about amounts, just the principle behind it.

I don't think it's got anything to do with devaluing the image by posting it on a micro website, so much as recognizing potential commercial value on someone else's work, without giving them their due.

If this had not been a business (like folks downloading mp3s, and not reselling them), I'd probably think about it differently, but in this case, there was specifically a commercial intent.

I agree the $15k / $75T thing is beyond ridiculous, especially given the non-commercial nature of that infringement. We're not arguing there.

I'm arguing 'oops, I'm sorry I made money using your work without paying you' isn't good enough. Who knows, maybe it could have been $5 - the sum isn't the important part, it's the principle.

Copyright infringement of registered images may also be subject to statutory damages.


...you might think that. Most people type terms into google images and don't realize that the images they find aren't free.

Yep they extort money by preying on the naive:


Why not have the info box AND a real watermark?

What would the point be? I think this brilliantly satisfies the requirements of a watermark while also achieving a simple usefulness. This is where design reaches its peak, when functional requirements, practical use, and pleasing aesthetics meet. Well done Getty

By making it minimalist, they're attempting to make it so that it doesn't intrude on the photos.

So, that way, if someone, say, shares the photo on Pinterest, it isn't a total loss for them. I can see the theory behind not giving it so much noise.

Please help me understand: What is so special about a visible watermark which is gone anyway when I buy the image? Was it before that bad? Clueless.

Wow, as of this writing the vast majority of comments are just so negative! Do we have to hate on everything? I like it! It looks way less tacky than their old watermark. In fact, it actually makes the photos look better compared to the old watermark and others' watermarks. They did a great job and they're not dummies. I'm sure a lot of thought went into how this would look or change when it was laid over light, dark, or patterned photos. Kudos to them. Getty Images preview photos now look way more attractive.

I don't know what all the negativity is about, I think it's a brilliant move that both serves its purpose for Getty, gets them more eyes to the actual images and is less of an eyesore and more informative to the viewer than just a logo.

I hate start meta discussions about HN but I think the negativity has a lot to do with the community changing a bit around here. The thread about DuckDuckGo a few days back exemplifies this and there was a discussion of it just yesterday. Basically, people want to be heard and the best way to do it is to be a contrarian.

A few years back I joined HN and was so intimidated by all the smart people here that it took a long time before I started commenting. Now, if you're not paying attention it's easy to mistakenly assume that the smart people "know better" and will comment with their opinions on how they'd do XYZ better. A lot of the threads I saw back then had people giving contrarian opinions and getting lots of attention for it. So for the newbie it's most likely easy to assume that's how things are done around here and that's how you prove your intelligence/expertise. But the thing is, what often looks like a contrarian view is often a question or an alternative way to do XYZ that isn't really saying XYZ is bad or wrong at all.

So I think it's a case of monkey see monkey do mixed with a misunderstanding of popular comments, who their authors are, and missing context. Everyone wants to be the smartest person in the room. HN can be an intimidating place because of how seriously exceptional a lot of people around here are. Hell, I still feel like a moron half the time when I comment. Egos get in the way of accepting that instead of being the smartest you should learn from the smartest and seeing that you don't have to say anything at all. In fact, saying nothing is often the smartest thing to do. How does that saying go? Something like "Shut up and let people assume you're stupid instead of opening your mouth and confirming it"?

I can't speak for others, but I'm skeptical by nature. When someone puts an idea in front of me, my first reaction is to find where the idea doesn't hold up. I immediately start poking at it.

It's not necessarily a negative reaction, and it doesn't mean I'm not going to buy into the idea eventually. It just means I don't take it at face value.

I used to get frustrated that people would see that kind of reaction as negative, but I've gotten better at mitigating that kind of reception over the years. And the people I've worked with long term have come to find ways to use it to all of our advantages.

For example, on a couple of development teams, I've ended up as that "unofficial lead debugger" for everyone's code. One mistake I work to avoid in debugging is thinking "Well, the problem can't be here, I know this part works." Cause, you know, that's inevitably where the problem is. :-)

I enjoy your style of curious investigation of a subject. It leads to my greater understanding of stuff.

But there's a big difference between that and between people who are just bashing.

There is a biblical reference [1] and also some quote attributed to Mark Twain [2] on keeping silent.

I don't consider myself a fool, or ignorant, but choose to remain silent most of the time because of the exceptional insight many have, and I love HN for it. i just skip over the negative stuff and look for those nuggets of insight so prevelent here.

[1] http://bible.cc/proverbs/17-28.htm

[2] http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/marktwain122650.h...

I consider myself somewhat new to HN, but here's what I think about it. I'm likely to be wrong, but it may be at least partly the reason.

First, it seems very useless to say “This is cool, I like it”. We know these types of comments, which often remain around the bottom.

Much easier is to write a useful objection that would grow into a thread and is likely to add to the discussion. You can point out a factual mistake, doubt something—you just need to stay more or less on topic.

The problem is often, though, in how the objection is phrased. One can say something like: “This is very good work, but [objection phrased as a question]. But still, [x] is a nice idea.” I always try to object like that. However, it takes time. If the person appropriate for the feedback is unlikely to read HN, politeness doesn't seem to be worth it. We also need to account for cultural differences. Then, many of more technical people here seem to be not very sensitive to politeness level, but very sensitive to factual mistakes.

So we end up with comments that look frank, but are useful and start discussions.

New people probably want to comment in the same spirit to attract attention and build up karma, but they may assume that frankness is the key. (What for one is a plain simple comment, for another may look like a blunt statement.)

So we end up with comments that often look frank and aren't very useful.

Everyone wants to be the smartest person in the room.

It's a shame, because it never used to be that way. And if ever it was, it was in a positive "look, I made this!" way.

To me, the fact that a story like this would even get to #1 on HN says more about how HN has morphed. Would we have seen this 4 or 5 years ago? Unlikely IMHO.

The paranoid SEO articles really put me off.

I'm not understanding what you're referring to. Can you give a link or other example? You piqued my curiosity.

Today is Saturday, so maybe that has some effect on placement.

Earlier discussion on the negativity meta-question: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3755228

A certain level of contrarian dialogue is healthy for any community; I do, however, agree that there's a lot of negativity for the sake of being heard.

Absolutely. To put what you said another way, it's one thing to put forth an opposing view for the sake or starting discussion or playing devil's advocate and quite another to do so for the sake of looking smart while being under the impression that if you disagree you're automatically smart-looking. All opinions are welcome here as we all know but it's not too difficult to tell genuine disagreement from look-me-I'm-smartism.

The only problem I see with this new watermark is that it takes too much space. It's too tall for me, it could be shorter. But it's just a tiny detail, I love the concept and the design.

It's actually a square interestingly. Just glancing at it, I felt it was taller than it was wide. Had to measure twice to believe it was a square :D

I think the rectangle illusion is created by the text that is vertically justified but not horizontally justified.

I think the illusion is reinforced by virtue of the square itself being flush with the right-hand edge of the image, but offset from the bottom edge.

The text also needs to be outlined - you can see how it becomes hard to read when in low-contrast/light areas of the photo.

You know what the purpose of a watermark is, right? The old one covered the whole image.

Ripping everything apart is what HN is all about. Look at any random article on the front page and tell me I'm wrong.

Analysis is what HN is about. Meanness is not. The former can easily degrade into the latter, but we're fighting a constant battle against that tendency.

I'm telling you you're wrong. It's more about intelligent discussion and learning a thing or two than ripping everything apart. Going into anything with that mentality automatically stops you from learning anything. The front page you see may give you that impression but it's definitely not the intention.


What better solution do you have, there's no way to make an image file hold a clickable link. And the URL isn't meant to be an advertisement, it's not meant to "entice" you, it's meant to be an easy option for if you already want to go to the place where you can buy, or get more information about, the image.

"there's no way to make an image file hold a clickable link"

Not true since the days of TIFF. JPEG has application-specific tag and Exif data. PNG files are often abused to contain non-image data (i.e. Adobe Fireworks stores vector data after the end of the image). Even GIF files have a comment field!

So, stick the hyperlinks links inside JPEG tags. Use Exif so others can read them. Or make a Photoshop plugin that will display them and let the user click on them.

You could also stick the tags in using steganography, which is more in line with how a "watermark" should work.

The watermark is designed to be visible. You should know it's there without having to check for it. Additional meta data in exif data could be useful. Maybe they even have it, but since it involves more tools than looking at the image in my browser, I don't know if it's there or not.

None of those ways are widely-enough used, the solution needs to be such that more than just a few people can a.) realise the link is there and b.) work out what it is.

"... there's no way to make an image file hold a clickable link."

A QR-code is very close, though...

In some circumstances, but within the context of Getty pictures, how often is it going to be easier or quicker to scan a QR code than to type "gty.im" and eight digits?

This is the silliest argument ever. You have to have a watermark, and you can't force it to link somewhere. That doesn't mean you can't make the watermark marginally more useful. I am so tired of people arguing in the comments for the sake of feeling like they had something to say.

Designers use these images in photoshop for clients to decide if and which photos to acquire. The watermark is to prevent clients just wanting to steal the images (happens a lot). I think including a url (making the pricing transparent) and including the artist (making it less anonymous) is pretty smart.

Including the photographer's name is the really smart bit. Before, if you used the watermarked image, you were screwing "Getty Images" (a big corporation, i.e. who cares) out of some money. Now, if you use the watermarked image, you're screwing an individual person whose name is right there in front of you out of some money.

I imagine the intent is if you have a bunch of these saved in a folder or someone took the image and put it somewhere else, you have an easy reference as to where to go to the official source (and get pricing information, etc.). It's link info that works even outside an HTML context.

It's a watermark. Unless you know how to embed clickable links into a jpeg, I don't see what your complaint is.

A QR code would have been a better choice to embed than the URL. Who wants (or able to) type correctly 10 digits?

A QR code? What did you have in mind for interaction?

As far as I know you'd need at least two devices (the one whose screen is displaying the image with the QR code, and the one you're using to snap a photo of it). And then you'd probably want send the decoded URL back to the original device to load in the original browser.

Edit: Maybe you were thinking about the analog world, but watermarked images tend to show up in the digital space (in mockups especially).

If visiting a URL involves taking my phone out of pocket, finding the QR app, taking a picture, emailing myself the URL, checking email on my desktop, and then clicking the link, I guarantee you that's not going to happen.

Yes - that has been the problem that's prevented the adoption of sequences of 10 numbers in the telephone system </sarcasm>

Telephone numbers are always use grouping (432-23-43), which makes copying easier. People still have problems with software license codes, although those are grouped too.

However you can just imagine any grouping you like though, by using the power of thinking about stuff. It's a new process they just invented that, get this, lets you think about stuff. It isn't just restricted to thinking about stuff like groups of numbers however, but also works on things like duck identification and fluid dynamics, so it is very flexible.

They should teach that stuff in school. Thinking, that could be really transformative.

Been thinking along these lines, I've been wondering how to write a very short course for people who hate school on how to research and learn stuff.

I don't like it.

There are three purposes mixed in this "watermark":

a) Give the innocent viewer a way to know the name of the photograph and go the original source of the image, maybe to buy the picture.

b) Make it harder for less-than-innocent people who want to take these images and use them for illustrative purposes without people noticing they did not actually take these pictures.

c) Inject a fingerprint in these images so that can serve as a proof of ownership in case of legal issue, and that may also help crawling the web searching for them.

For a), it seems much preferable to have a classic caption, where more useful information may fit (date, place, etc)

For b), with my limited gimp skills, I guess I would need 30 minutes to remove the watermark the first time, and then it would take 2 minutes.

For c) I suppose a real invisible watermark is actually much harder to erase and a better proof of ownership, but maybe they do add such a fingerprint also?

Anyway, I see here yet another contradiction of DRMs: content provider want more and more people accessing their content for free, but they also want, at the same time, this access to be unpleasant enough so that these users would buy the paid content. I don't think this scheme will survive in the long-term.

You realize that Getty Images used to have much uglier watermarks, right?

Example: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/58607934/stuff/getty.jpeg

So in other words, option b and option c has always been on the table. However, we're in an era where images are becoming much easier to share on other platforms. All someone has to do to share a picture these days is to pin it or post it on Tumblr. All that metadata gets stripped when people do that. At least with this, people know where to find it.

Considering the changes in sharing images, why wouldn't Getty want to take advantage of this? That way, if people are going to share them anyway, at least it isn't a total loss to them — and hey, people might even be more likely to share them because it doesn't have a supremely ugly watermark.

Media outlets pay $100 — each — for many of these photos. This a big business for Getty, so they need to protect it. Now, Getty could do things to make it easier for smaller entities — say, bloggers — to take advantage of this. This feels like a good, if imperfect, compromise.

Now you might be willing to use GIMP to modify a photo, but most people won't. It's why Adobe can charge $600 for Photoshop. Too expensive? You're not their target market.

This isn't to say there's not a better way, but it just feels like we're wringing our hands over what seems to be a good-faith effort to improve something which previously hindered the experience.

You say "much uglier" but this is a subjective judgment, right? In fact if I had the choice I may prefer the previous one, they may have a less annoying influence on the original photo.

I feel like you're just being contrarian at this point — I mean, you weren't even aware that this watermark existed until I pointed it out.

Just as a remark to your point c: A watermark (visible or invisible) provides neither proof of ownership nor does it help crawling the web searching for the watermarked artifact.

Anyone can add a watermark to an image, regardless if they are the owner, creator, copyright holder or whatever.

Anyone can even add a getty watermark to an image. This is called a copy attack and it's the reason why the watermark is not very useful for identification by a crawler. A getty watermarked image could be a real getty image or any image someone inserted a getty watermark. In other words you could sort of DoS the getty crawler very easily.

Digimarc had an interesting research paper on their website about this topic but unfortunately it had been removed. In 2011 I wrote an email to Digimarc customer support asking if their newest watermarks are still vulnerable to a copy attack and the answer was: "There are hundreds of applications and specific use cases for digital watermarking as I'm sure you found in your research. Some of our published papers describe theories and some describe applications and solutions that are available for license today as end-user products. "

EDIT: Found the Digimarc paper http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&#....

A Getty crawler would have access to all the images that really are Getty images, making it fairly easy to identify a non-Getty images with fake Getty watermarks. Some sort of hashing function, perhaps, or something like tineye uses.

Since these new watermarks include a URL that identifies the Getty stock number of the photo, someone trying to fake that would end up putting a bogus stock number on the watermark, which makes it even easier to ignore fakes. The fake watermark would either use a number that doesn't correspond to a Getty picture at all, or a number that points at a different image.

I agree with you that the Getty crawler has access to all the Getty images and can identify non-Getty images. My point is that the watermark is not of much help for this task. On the one hand it is easily misled to find false positives on the other hand it will miss many images which have been altered strongly enough to destroy the watermark.

You are right with your objection that watermark contains the stock number. I don't see however how this can help a crawler to identify a fake stock number. To compare the (possible altered) image with the original we have to use an image hash and then we could have used the image hash in the first place.

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