Getty goes after Google

When Getty Images makes an impassioned plea to the Australian government for the protection of the livelihood of creative artists, you know the world has gone psycho!

Pot. Kettle. Black? ‘Pops Route 66 Restaurant and gift shop, Arcadia, Oklahoma’. Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress. Getty Images notoriously hoovered up a collection of 1000s of Carol Highsmith images donated by the photographer to the Library of Congress. She sued and lost.

Getty has come out swinging against the lobbying efforts of Google in its apparently successful attempts to have the ‘safe harbour’ provisions in copyright legislation extended to them.

The current Australian safe harbour provisions protect ISPs when its customers infringe copyright by uploading content – such as photographs – owned by someone else. Protection is granted on the understanding that service providers will co-operate with copyright holders when breaches are brought to their attention and take down infringing content.

Google wants the protection extended for itself and other platforms such as Facebook and YouTube, as is the case in the US and Europe. It’s effectively a self-regulation regime. Getty is arguing that where Google has safe harbour protection, it pays lip-service to its responsibilities to seek out copyright infringement, and that’s what will happen here if the law is changed.

In an unusually full and frank statement reported in The Australian media section this week Getty Images’ general counsel Yoko Miyashita belled the cat on Google’s behaviour where it currently enjoys safe harbour protections:

‘Here in the US the safe harbours were intended to provide strong incentives for online ­service providers and copyright holders to co-operate to detect and deal with copyright infringements … but that has never materialised,’ she said.

‘There is no incentive for co-operation. The safe harbours are instead used by service providers as a shield and an excuse for doing nothing to detect or prevent copyright infringement.

‘In fact, we have seen that ­service providers risk greater ­liability if they take steps to detect and prevent infringements, so they are encouraged to stick their head in the sand.’

She said that right clicking on an image in Google Images enables copying and consequent copyright infringement.

‘Google’s behaviour, and other online platforms like them, is adversely affecting not only Getty Images’ business but importantly the lives and livelihoods of visual artists around the world.

Getty argues that taking down infringing content is not good enough.

‘Based on information in Google’s latest transparency report, Google handled over 70 million copyright removal requests in one month…At that rate, Google will receive close to one billion copyright removal notices in the course of the coming year.

‘Each of those reports represents an instance where copyright holders were not com­pensated for use of their works. And the numbers are increasing every year. This shows not only the burden on copyright holders to identify infringements and prepare and send notices … but also the lack of respect for copyright which has been fuelled in large part by the safe harbours.’

She advised the government to look to markets (aka sovereign countries) where Google had safe harbour protection before making its decision to fall into line with Big Internet’s wishes.

However, it appears the changes are a done deal. The government is planning to introduce the Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill into parliament in this sitting of Parliament.

It seems there aren’t sufficient votes in protecting the rights of creative artists to motivate the government to stand up to the likes of Google and Facebook. Plenty of votes among people who want and expect free stuff from the Internet, however!

Getty has had issues with Google for several years – ever since it started presenting high resolution version of photographs, including Getty images, in its search results in 2013. Last year it filed a complaint with the European Union’s antitrust commission claiming Google is engaged in piracy of its content.

Yoko Miyashita said that traffic to the Getty website plummetted in 2013 immediately after Google began hosting high-res images on its and domains. However traffic remained steady on Google domains where the change hadn’t been implemented.

According to Miyashita, when Getty complained to Google it was told to get used to it or opt out of Google image search entirely.

– So if that’s the considered response from Google to the largest stock photography, etc, etc, business in the world – what chance will an individual copyright holder have when seeking redress against Google!
– Keith Shipton




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