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Getty Images has acquired Unsplash: will photos still remain free?

In a blog post on its website, Unsplash’s CEO and Co-Founder, Mikael Choe,  announced that Getty Images has acquired his company. He is talking about acceleration and not goodbye and that the company will continue to operate as a standalone brand and division of Getty Images and that the entire Unsplash team will remain.

Unsplash founders, Mikael Cho, Luke Chesser and Stephanie Liverani, will continue to lead and operate the Unsplash business maintaining its free content model, reporting into Getty Images CEO, Craig Peters, Getty said in a press release.

As per their own mission statement, ‘Unsplash was born from the pain we had in finding great, usable imagery. And we weren’t alone. Which is why, today—millions of creators from around the world have downloaded over 2 billion Unsplash images to create presentations, artwork, mockups, and more’.

Is it really free? [So far] Yes.

Unsplash is a platform powered by a community of 211,166 photographers that has gifted hundreds of thousands of their own photos to fuel creativity around the world. Users could sign up for free, or or even not at all, but either way, could get access to over a million photos under the Unsplash license—which makes them free to do-whatever-you-want with.

Getty Images is the company that also owns iStock, a photo bank of (relatively) cheap stock photos and would be one of those directly harmed by Unsplash’s free photos; so the question pops us in our heads immediately: will Unsplash remain free? The CEO’s statement reassures the employees that they will all remain and that the company will grow, but… doesn’t mention anything about that part of the strategy involved.

The full statement acquisition announcement goes as follows:

I’m excited to share Unsplash is being acquired by Getty Images today.

The reason I’m excited about this acquisition is because it’s not goodbye, it’s about acceleration.

This is not one of those tech acquisitions where the company is bought to be shut down. Unsplash will continue to operate as a standalone brand and division of Getty Images. The entire Unsplash team will be staying and building Unsplash in the direction we have been. The main difference now is we have access to the resources and experience of Getty Images to help accelerate our plans to create the world’s most useful visual asset library.Tweet of Unsplash CEO

In 2016, we first met the Getty Images team. We weren’t sure they would see the world the same way we did given their business was largely built on licensing. Over years of conversations, however, we learned about the level of respect they had for the Unsplash community and the rights of creators to choose how and where their imagery is made available. Craig Peters, Getty Images CEO, told me, “We have so much admiration for Unsplash. What you’re doing for creativity and what you’ve built is incredible.”

It also became clear we shared a similar view of the world. The impact of imagery has never been greater and will only become greater in the future. And we both aim to push that impact further than anyone has ever done before.

After interacting with the team at Getty Images more and better understanding their long-term vision, we realized we shared so much alignment that going at this together could be much more impactful than going at it separately.

What’s to come

In the last year, Unsplash passed two billion image downloads (and just passed three billion), Unsplash for Brands tripled in size, and we recently launched Unsplash Hire.

In partnership with Getty Images, we’ll be accelerating our plans on each of these. We’ve identified ways we can grow faster together, collaborate more with brands, and create many more opportunities for creative talent.

We’ll be hiring and adding resources to bring each of these parts of Unsplash to full bloom much quicker than we could have done alone.

So yes, we are excited for what’s to come. It’s been nearly eight years since Unsplash began as a Tumblr blog with ten images. Since then, Unsplash grew into something greater than we ever could have imagined.

There are now over two million high quality, high-resolution images on Unsplash that have been contributed by people from every country. The number of creative works that have been enabled by these visuals is in the billions. It’s impossible to estimate the collective impact but from what we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard, images on Unsplash are fundamental to helping so many people make positive things happen.

It’s hard to say the Unsplash community merely created a dent in the universe. It feels more like you’ve helped create an entire new universe.

With the added resources and support, we’re looking forward to creating so much more for you and with you.

Mikael and the Unsplash team

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