Getty Images has taken a major step towards addressing unauthorized image use by allowing low-resolution (~0.17MP - and if that's hard to visualize check out the picture in this story) embedding of images for no charge, with no watermark, on non-commercial 'blogs and social media'.

Admitting that combatting unauthorized image use by the world's Internet users is impractical, Getty is pitching the new embedding service, which is available for more than 35 million photographs as a legal alternative to image theft. 

Speaking to the British Journal of Photography, Craig Peters (SVP Business Development, Content and Marketing) says that Getty needs to adopt to a reality where 'everybody today is a publisher thanks to social media and self-publishing platforms'.

Embedding (which excludes certain restricted collections such as Getty's Premium Archive, Contour and Reportage) offers in Peters' words 'a legal method' to use copyright images. Embedding is strictly limited to non-commercial image use, and in the words of its terms and conditions, Getty reserves the right to 'place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to [the embedder of the image]'.

It is certainly true that unauthorized image use is widespread, and on the face of it, offering watermark-free embedding to online publishers engaged in non-commercial content creation seems fairly innocuous. 

However, as for that distinction between commercial and non-commercial use, Craig Peters' comments to the BJP (echoed in an FAQ made available to Getty contributors) might not offer much comfort to its photographers...

'the fact [...] that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business.'

Which means that as editor of dpreview.com - an advertising-supported website - I can embed the image at the top of this news story free of charge, because I'm not using it to promote a service, product or my business.

But as the guy who took the picture, I won't see a penny.

UPDATE: PetaPixel is reporting that (for now at least) the credit line of embedded images can be easily deleted with some simple HTML trickery.