After years of people stealing Getty photos from other blogs and Google Searches, the stock image site is making some photos free and adding embed codes to give proper attribution.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Getty has realized that tens of millions of its photos have been used without licensing. Getty couldn’t send cease and desist orders to even a small percentage of people who are taking their photos, much less hit each publisher with a lawsuit and fines.

Getty is Trying to Sound Positive

The tone and quotes that Getty execs are offering media sound like they’re admitting defeat. After years of rage and frustration at people who illegally use licensed images, Getty is giving up the fight and opening the library to whoever wants it. Some are trying to sound positive by saying this is an opportunity for Getty to catch up with times and give the gift of content to whomever wants it, but we all know they’re just giving up on a problem.

The Consumerist said the main benefit to Getty is that embed codes can be used to insert revenue generating ads or data mine people who use the images. Getty hasn’t started that yet, but it’s an option they didn’t have before.

You Really Have No Control Over Photos Anymore

Getty was finding its images all over the Internet on social media and blogs. People were just Google Image searching the subject and using the images without paying for them or giving any attribution.

Lizzie Seedhouse talked about optimizing your images and video for search, and mentioned using descriptions to bring visitors to your page. A photo called “” will have more value than “shutterstock 16945.jpg.” However, it opens up the door for someone to take that image and use it on their own blog. We paid for it, but they’re still getting to use it.

Once someone has paid for a photo and posted it online, there is very little control over the hundreds of people who can use it for their own purposes, whether that’s legal or not.

Embedding Has Become Commonplace This Year

Multiple websites, including Mashable and the Huffington Post, have started to take advantage of embedding posts. They’ll curate the top reaction tweets to a story or embed an Instagram photo for effect. The popularity of embedding Vimeo and YouTube videos need not be mentioned at all.

Embedding prevents content-theft from sites because the photos never really belonged to them in the first place. This also gives credit where credit is due – to whoever constructed the Tweet or snapped the photo. The only real danger to blogs is if the original poster deletes the Tweet or picture and a dead link is left where the digital media once was.

Only YOU Can Prevent Image Theft

You can’t control who steals your images and what they do with them, but as a publisher you can control where your blog images come from. On top of taking advantage of Getty’s new, free photos, Google updated its advanced search in January to add a usage rights tab to narrow searches down to commercial reuse and modification. Between Advanced Search and Getty, there are still plenty of places to find photos for free if you can’t afford to pay for a stock image account.

Running the Internet on the Honor System is a scary prospect, but proper attribution starts with you.