Under the Open Content Program, the Los Angeles museum is allowing visitors to its website to browse online and use the high-resolution, reproduction-quality images, some over 100 megabytes in size, "freely and without restriction".
The images represent 4,689 objects at the J. Paul Getty Museum (some images show more than one object), including paintings, drawings, manuscripts, photographs, antiquities and sculpture and decorative arts.
The Getty plan to add other images, until eventually all applicable Getty-owned or public domain images are available, without restrictions, online.
The Getty Research Institute is currently determining which images from its special collections can be made available under this project and the Getty Conservation Institute is working to make available images from its projects worldwide.
J. Paul Getty Museum director Timothy Potts said: "The Getty's collections are greatly in demand for publications, research and a variety of personal uses, and I am pleased that with this initiative they will be readily available on a global basis to anyone with internet access."
Previously, the Getty Museum made images available upon request, for a fee, and granted specific use permissions with terms and conditions. Now, while the Getty requests information about the intended use, it will not restrict use of available images, and no fees apply for any use of images made available for direct download on the website.
Getty president and CEO Jim Cuno said: "In a world where, increasingly, the trend is toward freer access to more and more information and resources, it only makes sense to reduce barriers to the public to fully experience our collections."