Getty Images is phasing out rights-managed ‘creative images’ in favor of royalty free content

Getty Images has announced that in an effort to streamline the complexities of imaging licensing it will be phasing out rights-managed content in favor of royalty-free imagery for its creative image submissions.

According to the blog post, Getty Images will move to a royalty-free-only creative images offer ‘during 2020,’ with no specific date mentioned. Once the transition goes into effect, image buyers will only see royalty-free creative images.

In the meantime, Getty Images is in the process of a ‘phased retirement’ of rights-managed creative images. To kick off the transition, Getty Images contributors can no longer submit new rights-managed creative images to GettyImages.com (as of November 6, 2019) and by the end of January 2020, all rights-managed images will ‘be removed from single image licensing (sometimes called à la carte) on GettyImages.com.’

After being removed from the single image licensing option, photographers ‘will be able to distribute [their] RM images as [they] wish, with the exception that [they] must not license any rights-managed images (or similar) in a way that conflicts with any active, unexpired exclusive licenses.

A screenshot of the Getty Images creative content search with the search inquiry 'mirrorless camera.'

Getty Images says in the announcement it’s ’confidently concluded that the [rights-managed] creative image licensing model no longer meets our [buyers] needs’ following ‘extensive customer research and testing on royalty-free versus rights‑managed [content].’

Getty backs up these claims in an FAQ section at the bottom of the article, titled ‘What evidence do you have for customers rejecting rights‑managed?’ saying it’s seen a steady ‘year‑over‑year decline in Creative [rights-managed] à la carte licenses over the last five years, with declines accelerating over time.

Without seeing the data Getty Images is referencing, it’s difficult to confirm or dispel its reasoning for the transition. The move to royalty-free licensing for creative images gives photographers less control over how their images are used, but should simplify the process for buyers, which in turn could make it more likely their photographs are licensed. Getty Images says ‘Licensing complexity has only led [image buyers] to other content, and in many cases, another provider as the broader industry is now essentially a royalty-free‑only model.

Rights-managed licensing will still be available for Getty Images editorial stills and rights-ready video content, so for the time being it’s only creative images that are affected. If you currently have creative images submitted for inspection, Getty addresses how those images will be handled in the FAQ in the announcement post.