Getty frames copyright fail over Google as victory

Getty Images has persuaded Google to include ‘more prominent’ copyright disclaimers in Image Search, and remove the ‘view image’ button, to make users aware of potentially copyrighted material. – Oh yes, and the stock agency also signed a multi-year licensing deal with Google.

Getty claimed that since 2013, when Google began showing high-res pictures through Image Search instead of thumbnails, the stock agency experienced a drop in website traffic as fewer people clicked through to the original image source.  Source: Google/Abcnews.go.

By removing the view image tool, users will not be able to click through to the direct image source. ‘Big deal,’ some might argue, given a right click will take you to a full res copy of the image which has been appropriated to the Google search engine. More prominent copyright disclaimers notwithstanding.

Getty Images filed a competition law complaint against Google with the European Commission in 2016, due to the search engine ‘promoting piracy’ through Image Search.

Almost two years later the stock agency claims it has achieved a satisfactory result that benefits both parties. Maybe even photographers. The alternative view is that Getty has abandoned legal action against Google in exchange for a licencing deal. And thus abandoned the defense of copyright for photographers.

‘Today we are pleased to announce that after working cooperatively with Google over the past months, our concerns are being recognised and we have withdrawn our complaint,’ Getty Images wrote in an e-mail to photographers, obtained by Petapixel.

‘This is a benefit to all image owners globally and we expect this to have a positive impact on traffic to our site.’

Getty’s complaint related to Google providing access to full resolution pictures directly through Image Search, rather than simply showing a thumbnail. (It has been doinbg this since 2013.) Google will still do this, but Getty is nonetheless framing its deal with Google as a victory.

A compromise perhaps is a better result for Getty than Google’s original ‘solution’, which was for all Getty images to be removed from Image Search, effectively rendering the agency invisible on the internet’s largest search engine. (It might be argued that Google had Getty over a barrel!)

‘We are encouraged by Google’s approach to address our concerns and believe that with your help, we have fought for a fair and respectful marketplace for content creators around the world,’ Getty Images writes. ‘We believe our approach to work closely with Google will best protect copyright and the livelihoods of photographers, and other artists who rely on licensing to earn a living and fund the creation of new works. This is a significant milestone, but we know that other battles remain.’

Indeed other battles do remain! But it’s unlikely we’ll have Getty taking on Google again. The stock agency’s ‘multi-year global strategic partnership’ means Google will license Getty Images’ content across its products and services.

‘This agreement between Getty Images and Google sets the stage for a very productive, collaborative relationship between our companies,’ said Dawn Airey, Getty Images CEO. ‘We will licence our market leading content to Google, working closely with them to improve attribution of our contributors’ work and thereby growing the ecosystem.’

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