|Industry||Publishing, media, web design|
|Predecessor(s)||Getty Communications, PhotoDisc|
|Founder(s)||Mark Getty, Jonathan Klein|
|Headquarters||Seattle, Washington, U.S.|
|Products||Digital images, audio, video|
|Services||Rights-managed and royalty-free images, audio and video|
|Subsidiaries||PhotoDisc, Tony Stone, Hulton Getty, Jupiterimages|
Getty Images, Inc. is a stock photo agency, based in Seattle, Washington, United States. It is a supplier of stock images for business and consumers with an archive of 80 million still images and illustrations and more than 50,000 hours of stock film footage. It targets three markets—creative professionals (advertising and graphic design), the media (print and online publishing), and corporate (in-house design, marketing and communication departments).
Getty has distribution offices around the world and capitalizes on the Internet and CD-ROM collections for distribution. As Getty has acquired other older photo agencies and archives, it has digitised their collections, enabling online distribution. Getty Images now operates a large commercial website which allows clients to search and browse for images, purchase usage rights and download images. Costs of images vary according to the chosen resolution and type of rights associated with each image. The company also offers custom photo services for corporate clients.
In September 1997, Getty Communications, as it was called at the time, merged with PhotoDisc, Inc. to form Getty Images.
In 2008, the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman (H&F) acquired Getty Images.
In 2009, Flickr announced a partnership with Getty Images in which specially selected users could submit photographs for stock photography usage and receive payment. In 2010 this was changed so that users could label images as suitable for stock use themselves.
Since its formation, Getty Images has pursued an aggressive programme of acquisition, buying up many privately owned agencies that had built up the stock photography industry, from small family-run firms to larger agencies. By 1999 it had acquired one of the largest agencies, Tony Stone Images; the online art seller Art.com; the sports photography agency Allsport; the journalistic specialists Liaison Agency; Newsmakers the first digital news photo agency; Online USA, a specialist in celebrity shots; and the Hulton Picture Library, the former archive of the British photojournalistic magazine Picture Post. The Hulton collection was sold by the BBC to Brian Deutsch in 1988, when it was renamed Hulton Deutsch. In 1996, the Hulton collection was sold on once more, this time purchased by Getty Images and renamed Hulton Getty. With the acquisition of the Hulton library, Getty Images took ownership of the rights to some 15 million photographs from the British press archives dating back to the Nineteenth Century. Hulton Getty also included photographs from the Keystone Collection, as well as images by notable photographers such as Bert Hardy, Bill Brandt, Weegee and Ernst Haas.
Getty has branched out into stock audio, music and sound effects. And also video with the acquisition of EyeWire and Energy Film Library.
In 2000, Getty acquired one of its main competitors, Archive Photos of New York (a division of The Image Bank), for US$183 million. The Archive Photos library was combined with the Hulton Getty collection to form a new subsidiary, Hulton Archive. Archive Photos had been formed in 1990 from the merger of Pictorial Parade (est. 1935) and Frederick Lewis Stock Photos (est. 1938), two well-established US photo agencies. Their collections included archive images from The New York Times, Metronome and George Eastman House, and works by photographers such as Ruth Orkin, Deborah Feingold, Murray Garrett, Nat Fein and John Filo.
Further acquisitions followed, with the purchase in 2004 of image.net for $20 million USD. On February 9, 2006, the microstock photo website iStockphoto was acquired by Getty Images for $50 million USD. In 2007, Getty successfully purchased its largest competitor, MediaVast, for $207 million. The acquisition meant that Getty Images gained control of WireImage (Entertainment, creative, and sports photography), FilmMagic (fashion and red carpet photography), Contour Photos (portrait and studio photography). Getty Images also acquired a host of other subsidiaries including "Master Delegates" who include:Isifa Image Service in Prague, Laura Ronchi in Italy.
On October 23, 2008, Getty Images announced their intention to buy Jupitermedia's online images division, Jupiterimages, for $96 million in cash. The sale went ahead in February 2009; Jupiterimages (including the sites stock.xchng and StockXpert) is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Getty, while Jupitermedia, now trading as WebMediaBrands, continues its internet publishing business which was not sold to Getty Images.
In December 2008, it was announced that Getty Images was acquiring Redferns Music Picture Library, the London-based music photography collection.
In February 2008, it was announced that Getty Images would be acquired by Hellman & Friedman in a transaction valued at an estimated US$2.4 billion. On July 2, 2008, Getty Images announced the completion of its acquisition by the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. Getty Images common stock ceased trading on the New York Stock Exchange at the close of the acquisition and was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange.
In 2012, H&F engaged investment bankers to sell the company. While a price of $4 billion was initially discussed, in August when the private equity firm Carlyle Group emerged as the likely acquirer, the price under consideration was said to be $3.3-3.4 billion. CVC Capital Partners Ltd. was also said to have been bidding but had yet to top Carlyle's price. The sale to Carlyle thereafter was announced at $3.3 billion, with co-founders Getty and Klein and the Getty family all carrying their investments over into the new ownership structure. Getty will also continue to serve as chairman and Klein as chief executive.
In 2008, Getty Images caused controversy for its pursuit of copyright enforcement on behalf of its photographers. Rather than pursue a policy of sending out "cease and desist" notices, Getty typically mails out a demand letter claiming substantial sums of damages to owners of websites which it believes are using their images in infringement of their photographers' copyright. Getty commonly tries to intimidate website owners by sending collection agents, even though a demand letter cannot create a debt. One photographer noted: "courts don't like to be used as a means of extortion." In one case, Getty sent a church in Lichfield, Staffordshire, a £6,000 bill for photographs used on its website, apparently placed there by a church volunteer. In this case, the church offered to pay Getty what it thought was a reasonable amount. The diocese's communications director said, "Getty was not playing ball or following the normal litigation or dispute resolution procedures and [I advised the church] to ignore them. We don't deal with bullies; we deal with legal threats appropriately. I told [Getty] by letter that's what [the church was] doing, that we were not going to play, and didn't hear any more." The Guardian describes other instances in which Getty or other stock photo businesses dropped the matter when the website owner refused to pay or hired a lawyer. A law firm was quoted as saying: "Once we get involved generally Getty does back off."
In 2009, Car-Freshener corp filed a case against Getty Images in U.S. Federal Court, Northern District New York (Case 7:09-cv-01252-GTS -GHL). Car-Freshener claimed that Getty Images had in its catalog photos that included the famous "tree-shaped" trademarked car fresheners. In 2011, Getty Images had attempted to have the case dismissed, but the motion was denied. In 2012, Getty Images agreed to settle by paying Car-Freshener corp, but admitted no wrongdoing.
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