On December 6th the Google Drive Blog announced that “5,000 new photos of nature, weather, animals, sports, food, education, technology, music and 8 other categories are now available for your use in Docs, Sheets, and Slides” with no mention to how they were acquired or what type of license they come with. If you have a google drive account (comes with gmail and google apps for business) you can create a document and when you go to insert an image you can search google, life or stock. There’s a notice that the “results shown are labeled for commercial reuse with modification” but other than that you can insert the image results in your document and away you go.
It all seems quite mysterious, but luckily some istockers uncovered what’s really going on. In a forum post on January 10th an istock contributor is alarmed to find one of their images in the search results and once they place “it into my document at 1,066 x 1,600. No attribution. No meta-data. No license. No link.” This post is followed by 537 comments then the thread is locked.
On January 11th a forum post titled “Google Drive + Update” is made by mr_erin who appears to work for istockphoto with the following information:
“This is a license deal arranged with Google through Getty Images”
“There may eventually be additional content added to this pool/agreement”
“Google licensed these images for use by Google users through the Google Drive platform; Users of this platform are granted rights to place this imagery in content created using Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google Presentations, which end uses can be for commercial purposes.”
I haven’t really dug into the forum posts to see what else is being said or located other sources for the story. The photographer who emailed me about it (Don) says that Getty/Flickr photographers are being paid a one time fee of $12 for the deal.
I’m positive that Getty and Google will figure out a way to lower the bar even further at some point, but this is the lowest I’ve seen it. Gmail has 425 million active users worldwide according to Wikipedia. That’s some serious fractions of a penny for a license.