A good reason to NOT embed images in your blog post

Recently Getty Images announced that they were making a bazillion photos available for embedding in your blog posts and other web content. Many people misunderstood this to mean that Getty was opening up their catalogue for any kind of non-commercial use, but that is not the case. There are a lot of great discussions about the limitations of Getty’s free offering, but there is one point that really makes it a deal-killer for me:

You can embed only

Embedding means that the image is still hosted at Getty and your blog post just links to it. Your blog’s site is not storing a copy of the image at all.

Why this is a good idea

Embedding means that your audience can find the source.

It means that you’re not illegally taking a copy of the image and misrepresenting it as your own.

It makes attribution really easy, because it’s like auto-attribution.

Why this is not such a good idea

What if Getty’s site is unavailable?

What if they change the terms down the road?

What if they simply change the structure of the embed code, breaking your links to their images?

It’s fine in the short term, but there is a long-term maintenance problem. That’s okay for content that is “timely” and essentially expires; it’s not okay for content which we want to have persist.

Reliability is a good reason to not embed

If you can download an image, possibly modify it if the license allows, and upload it to your blog’s media library, you have a copy of it to use forever (or thereabouts). I like to search on Flickr by licence type for CC-BY images which give me wonderful freedom. It’s also how I share my own images, so help yourself.

Include attribution and links to the source, and you’ll be okay even if the distributor is later offline or revokes future licenses.

There is a nice-looking plugin called WP Inject if you’re using a self-hosted WordPress solution, or you can do something like this when uploading media to WordPress.com:

A screenshot showing how to attribute a Flickr image to me

Which will then appear like this:

An image showing a series of three laptops in a row. Only the nearest is partly in focus.

“Line of laptops” by Brandon Grasley via Flickr (CC BY)

Notice that the creator is properly attributed, the licence is listed (which is nice if not exactly necessary), and the image itself is a link to the photo on Flickr. That makes it easy to find, and I think that’s better than a gross-looking, unreliable embedded photo which might vanish without warning.

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6 thoughts on “A good reason to NOT embed images in your blog post

  1. I think it’s also important to note that Getty came up with this free embedding use of their photos to give a little cover for their very active trolling (extortion?) campaign to scan the internet for improper uses of their photos and send out, not just cease and desist letters, but actual bills to tens of thousands of people asking for thousands of dollars.
    http://www.ibtimes.com/getty-images-lawsuits-enforcement-or-trolling-fear-letters-dwindling-stock-photo-giant-hits-federal

  2. Nice job covering both sides of the discussion. One other reason to embed is that you’re not using up storage space on your allocation, if that’s a concern. I often wonder, though, about the whole concept of embedding others content. It seems to me that it is often done just to have an image. My preference, where possible, is to create my own images whether by camera or screen capture. The concept of copyright infringement goes away at that point.

    • I don’t think storage space for just images will be a concern for too long (or maybe just not for most people). For video, etc., most content seems to live on YouTube anyway, so embedding and linking are your only options.

      I also prefer to take photos (or repurpose photos I’ve taken) for my posts. You often have screenshots in your posts, I notice, and that works very well.

      Thanks, Doug!

      • It’s probably not a big storage issue if you’re self-hosted but something to be aware of if you’ve got a cap. We seem to have got away from the concept of optimizing images because storage is cheap. I hate seeing and waiting for a 2MB image to download. Wishing I had better internet service!

      • That’s a great point…. I recently realized the our learning environment has a beautiful but large image as a default background… it’s nearly a megabyte. I need to find a way to shrink that without making it gross, or find something else.

        For that case, something like SVG makes a lot of sense. For photos – not so much.

        Same thing goes for a lot of web and app design, eh? Remembering that we’re on data plans or using limited processors will help things run more smoothly.

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