back to article Getty Images flings competition sueball at Google Image Search

Getty Images has announced it will file a competition law complaint against Google with the European Commission. The photo library's beef with Google is that in 2013 it changed its image search service so that it instead of displaying thumbnail images users were instead offered “high res large-format content.” That change, …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    I feel dirty for saying this, but it's not Google's fault that you can right click and save as. That's the browser, not the website.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      "I feel dirty for saying this, but it's not Google's fault that you can right click and save as. That's the browser, not the website."

      This is a well-worn argument. It *is* illegal, at least in the UK, for me to walk up to a shifty looking fellow and say "number 63 just down the road left his door unlocked. Fill your boots". It's aiding and abetting.

      Google is separating the image from the website and giving you just the image. It's up the courts to decide if that's aiding and abetting.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      I think the argument is that because Google is showing the image, the original website can't use Javascript to try and block Save As, or earn advertising revenue from the visit.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "I think the argument is that because Google is showing the image, the original website can't use Javascript to try and block Save As, or earn advertising revenue from the visit."

        I'm not so sure. Getty own iStockPhoto don't they, so they are in the business of selling imagery for websites. I've known web agencies find the image on iStockPhoto, Google that image and see if it's already on the internet, which they will then use. Depending on who you speak to, this will be because they don't want to pay the high prices Getty put on the images or they just simply don't want to pay.

        The problem though, while you can use Javascript to disable the right click function, you can't stop people print screening the image. So what's going to happen? Ban everyone from using the print screen function every computer in the world has had for the last 30 years? If people want the image badly enough no amount of blocking will stop them.

        What should happen is that it should be attractive to purchase the images, and you don't make it attractive by demanding £40 for a photo no bigger than an A5 piece of paper.

        1. strum Silver badge

          >What should happen is that it should be attractive to purchase the images, and you don't make it attractive by demanding £40 for a photo no bigger than an A5 piece of paper.

          If that's the price, that's the price. Use something else (or create something yourself). You don't have the right to steal something, because you think it's too expensive.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Without going into the nature of 'theft' correction: I have no business interest in such images. A few years ago I was researching for my own interest the early days of London Underground and went looking for photos. Most of the best, hi-res images were at Getty Images - and plastered with 'Getty Images' across the centre. Being British and a Londoner, I consider such 100-year old images a part of my history and a company that buys them and charges an arm and a leg to view them without the watermark no better than a patent troll.

          2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            If that's the price, that's the price.

            Correct. The buyer sets the price. Not the seller.

            (Also, in this case the beef seems to be with the fact that Google is not causing more people to buy images from Getty. Well, that's not going to change by a lawsuit or by making people go to the webiste that displays said image originally from Getty.)

          3. fuzzie

            The problem is more general than just image licensing sites. Other complaints against Google have related to them scraping near-entire articles off news sites to their book scanning adventure (which has now even been Ok'd by the Supreme Court). It's the balance between how a site allows itself to be indexed in order to be searchable, but at the same time prevent Google from strip mining their content.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Getty will lose

        " the original website can't use Javascript to try and block Save As"

        Far easier than that. Simply block the images folder completely using a robots.txt file and it will never appear in Google. Getty images presumably do this.

        They can even selectively block, e.g. bar Google from indexing the full pictures folder and only let them index the thumbnail pictures. Or only let Google index the folder with watermarked images.

        I think Getty won't succeed. If those images are not Getty images, and people are simply going elsewhere for their cat pictures, then tough. There's a lot more people making a lot more public domain images.

        When I search "Cat ball of wool", the first image is a shutterstock image with a shutterstock watermark on it. Its Shutterstock have only allowed Google to index the folder containing watermarked versions of the image. The Google image is 0.48 Mega pixels and the Shutterstock one available up to 22 mega pixels. High res is not 0.48 megapixels, my phone has 3.75 mega pixels FFS.

    3. big_D Silver badge
      Mushroom

      If Getty don't want them to appear in search results, don't sell them with web usage rights...

  2. localzuk

    I think they have a point here

    The idea of an image search is great, but it shouldn't the end of the process - it should be pointing you to the place where the image is hosted.

    1. Donn Bly

      Re: I think they have a point here

      > it should be pointing you to the place where the image is hosted.

      Well, actually it already does, with the very first button being "Visit Page"

      1. localzuk

        Re: I think they have a point here

        Not how it works though is it? If you are looking for an image, and the search engine provides you a 10 Megapixel version of the picture there and then, you're unlikely going to click "Visit Page" are you? You're going to copy it and move on.

        At least, that's how every person I've ever seen use it...

  3. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Force Google to put a watermark on 3rd party images it displays ?

    Could the solution really be so simple it can be expressed in 9 words ?

    Can see why I'm not a lawyer ....

    1. cs94njw

      Re: Force Google to put a watermark on 3rd party images it displays ?

      Awesome idea!

  4. Joe Harrison Silver badge

    Watermark

    Why can't Getty just heavily watermark the images visible to Google search? "Visit our site to get the one without the watermark".

    1. DaLo

      Re: Watermark

      Because Google aren't necessarily crawling the image library of Getty. Getty sell the rights to display a picture on websiteX. Google gets the image off websiteX to display in its image search.

      Getty could as part of their licensing of the images require that each website ensures a noindex on the images so that Google won't retrieve them.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Google gets the image off websiteX to display in its image search.

        And *then* could put a watermark on it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Getty are not lilly white themselves because of their 'use' of images they found on the net.

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: Getty are not lilly white themselves

      Quite so. Didn't they try suing 2600.com over a public domain spatter image 2600 used which Getty had also used as a background to one of their proprietary images?

      Burn them. Burn them with fire.

  6. /\/\j17

    Try Reading ALL The Words People

    Folks, try reading all the words in the article, not just scanning it and jumping on what you THINK it's saying rather than what it IS. In this case "high res large-format content" is the important part.

    Getty's issue isn't with Google's image search per se, they are quite happy for their images to be indexed and listed by Google. What they are taking issue with is the change from displaying just thumbnails on the search results page to showing high res images.

    Before this change Google gave you an easy way to find the images but you had to go to Getty to access (buy) the high res version. This was good for everyone. Google had more images, so better search results, so more users, so more tracking/ad-serving data collection. Getty were happy too as more people found their images, followed links to their site and bought the high res versions enabling them to support the photographers who take them.

    After the change Google still get everything they had before, plus a bit more on top as having the high res versions made their results richer. Getty on the other had get shafted as people can just steal their images rather than having to pay for them. And if no-one pays for them, who's going to pay the photographers to take them?

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Try Reading ALL The Words People

      TL;DR

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Try Reading ALL The Words People

        @wolftetone:

        "Tra-la-la I have my fingers in my ears I CAN'T HEAR YOOUUU"

        Read it and you might actually learn something.

    2. DaLo

      Re: Try Reading ALL The Words People

      Not sure you understand the article completely.

      "After the change Google still get everything they had before, plus a bit more on top as having the high res versions made their results richer. Getty on the other had get shafted as people can just steal their images rather than having to pay for them. "

      If the hi-res image is available to Google, it is available to anyone to download anyway, they could just follow the thumbnail link to the image and download it.

      Getty generally wouldn't show the hi-res image at all to the general public, especially not without a disruptive watermark so it wouldn't matter if Google had indexed it. The issue is with Getty images on a third party site in which there is no reason to believe would lead the member of the public looking at that image to decide to purchase it from Getty.

      I fI was to take a stock image from Google for my use then I am just as likely to take it from MegaCorps website who is licensing Getty images. If I wish to work within copyrights then I would go to Getty (and others) to look through their licensed image library.

      In reality it is more about the easy nature to search for images that you require using Google rather than having to go to a stock image supplier and a perception that there is okay to use images found on Google image search.

    3. Wade Burchette

      Re: Try Reading ALL The Words People

      From my perspective, this is Getty's fault for not putting the high-resolution image behind a paywall. In the Firefox browser, you can click Tools -> Page Info. There is a tab that window that says Media. When you click on that, you can easily download the picture or video. If that is taken away, I can press F12 in IE, Firefox, and Chrome to view the source code. In each browser I can select an element on the webpage. This will quickly give me the link to the image, which I can then copy. If that is taken away, I can use IE, browse to the temporary internet files location, and simply copy the image file from there. If I cannot use that, each browser lets me view the source code, I can simply search for any ".jpg" part and go from there. Google is just making it easy for us to skip a step. It is Getty's fault for not taking the proper steps to protect their intellectual property.

      1. moiety

        Re: Try Reading ALL The Words People

        Must admit, 'how come Getty are allowing Google to index their high-res images' was my question too. Bit like leaving your front door open and moaning when you get burgled. Google aren't blameless by any means; but indexing the web is what they do. Protecting their high-res images is what Getty is supposed to be doing, surely?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Try Reading ALL The Words People

          "Bit like leaving your front door open and moaning when you get burgled."

          Erm.

          Seriously?

          So, in this scenario, <insert stock image seller here> are you with your unlocked door and Google are the burglars, and you think it's wrong to moan about what Google are doing because you made it too easy for them?

          Hmm.

          1. moiety

            Re: Try Reading ALL The Words People

            If you are in the business of selling digital goodies then you keep them behind a paywall until you get the money for them. If you are selling digital goodies on behalf of other people then, yes, it is your duty, responsibility and job to take precautions to keep them secure. Letting Google index the high-res images is the opposite of that.

            Google aren't entirely blameless - I already said that...they would have been as well served just sticking with the thumbnails.

            But if I was making a site to sell digital goodies and I allowed Google -or anyone else- to just waltz out the front door with them, I would be sacked; and deservedly so. So how are Getty not liable for their actions?

      2. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: this is Getty's fault

        victim blaming is not the answer.

        Presumably you view scantily clad girls as "asking for it" too ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: this is Getty's fault

          "Presumably you view scantily clad girls as "asking for it" too ?"

          Depends, in winter? hypothermia? Yes.

        2. moiety

          Re: this is Getty's fault

          victim blaming is not the answer.

          Paywalling images is what they do. It's the core -almost the entirety- of their business. If they're not doing it right then who should be blamed? If you're selling digital goodies online, then letting them be indexable is incompetent at the very least. Have thumbnails indexable, by all meant, but the high-res top end products?

          1. DiViDeD Silver badge

            @ moiety Re: this is Getty's fault

            I don't think it's a case of Getty not paywalling their images properly, but of Google hunting down images which have already been purchased and used in Hi Res on the purchasers' websites, then scraping them and using them in the search results.

            Search is wot Google does, do, done, whatever, you see.

            1. moiety

              Re: @ moiety this is Getty's fault

              @DiViDeD - Good point. A possible solution is Getty embedding some metadata and Google agreeing to hold back on indexing it (size limit maybe).

              Someone else in e comments mentioned being able to dig up whatever size you like from the source code, so it might well be that Google are indexing it straight from Getty's site.

  7. DougS Silver badge

    Protectionism

    If Getty licenses images for others to use, how is Google supposed to know they own a particular image? Getty needs to put something in the image metadata to show it is copyrighted, and then ask Google to refuse to show images with that metadata (or have a court force them if they won't do it voluntarily) They can use a reverse image search to look for copies of their images without the metadata, and go after the web site owner for violating their copyright (or maybe ask that google block those copies automatically if they've indexed that same image with copyright metadata)

    It sounds like they want Google to quit indexing full sized images and only do thumbnails, making it harder for people to find images on their own - leading them to go to Getty's site and purchase stuff. While it may not be a good situation that people think they can do an image search for "church in a meadow" or whatever and download whatever they find without worrying about copyright, Getty's images are a small part of the web. That would be like JK Rowling suing Google because a few people have copied the text of her Harry Potter books onto the internet and it is findable with a search on "harry potter", and she wants that search term blocked.

    1. strum Silver badge

      Re: Protectionism

      >Getty needs to put something in the image metadata to show it is copyrighted

      That's nonsense. Every photo is copyrighted (unless it's very, very old). Getty have no obligation to tell Google (or anyone else) that usage has to be paid for.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Protectionism

        "That's nonsense. Every photo is copyrighted (unless it's very, very old). Getty have no obligation to tell Google (or anyone else) that usage has to be paid for."

        That is true but they are not going after Google for copyright infringement so Google also have no obligation to to tell users that usage has to be paid for (even in new photos often they don't).

        Should one company be able to decide that they can't show hi-res images even if other companies don't mind (and no law is being broken)?

        It seems more likely that due to the way the complaint has been raised it is more the idea of Google being used as an image search engine and Getty would like to be the defacto image search engine (with a nice fee for seeing and using their full res images).

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Protectionism

        "Getty have no obligation to tell Google (or anyone else) that usage has to be paid for."

        The flip side of the coin is the Getty also has no right to tell Google what to do with full size images that are put on the Internet and are intended to be found and used for free.

        The fault here as I see it is with the site owners not indicating that the full res photo should not be indexed, and with Getty for not specifying this as part of the licence requirement.

        1. moiety

          Re: Protectionism

          Why should it be the site-owner's problem? They've paid to use the image on their site; end of transaction. Are you suggesting that legit site owners pay; then go to the trouble of adding no-index code for *each* image; thus possibly disadvantaging themselves in search engine listings? While non-legit owners won't pay; won't have the no-index code and therefore won't have any of the possible search engine problems?

          That's not going to work.

          Anyway, it would be a relatively simple matter for Getty to add something in the metadata. Then persuading Google to take notice of it, would be the tricky bit.

          1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Protectionism

            "

            Why should it be the site-owner's problem? They've paid to use the image on their site; end of transaction.

            "

            No it certainly isn't. The copyright holder can legally specify how the licensee is and is not permitted to use the copyrighted work. This is usually called an "end-user license agreement" (EULA) which is so common in other types of copyright works such as software that I am surprised you have never heard of it.

            1. moiety

              Re: Protectionism

              Yes, and you check the licence at the point of purchase. If it's OK for website use, you buy it and that's it. The EULA could specify that I should dance in a beaver costume; but I don't have to do it.

              Now I don't use Getty because they insist on a link back to them and a photographer credit; which I think spoils the flow of a page and -in any event- if I've paid for an image, why the hell should I throw in a free advert? But here's the thing...I could buy the rights to use the image and not put the link in. What could Getty do about it exactly? Block me from the service? They could probably do that; whether they did or not would -I suspect- depend upon how much I spend with them. They could try taking me to court, but I really don't think that they would get very far in the UK. EULAs in Europe are more of a wishlist than anything else.

          2. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Protectionism

            "Are you suggesting that legit site owners pay; then go to the trouble of adding no-index code for *each* image;"

            So let's see - Getty sells an image, random person/company sticks image on website with no sort of licence or identifying information, and Getty is getting pissy about this? The only way this is going to work is if Getty talks to Google about indexing all of the Getty images in order to identify them correctly, and I'm not sure antagonising Google is the way to start...

      3. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Protectionism

        "Every photo is copyrighted (unless it's very, very old). "

        From what I've seen, if it's very very old, Getty have acquired it and claimed the copyright anyway.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Protectionism

          @DiViDeD:

          I believe you are incorrect.

          The copyright in the original photo lasts until 70 years after the owner's death.

          My interpretation is that what they are claiming copyright on is the computer file containing their electronic scan of the original photo and nothing more.

          They can put digital watermarks in the file to confirm its origin, but that shouldn't stop anyone from scanning another original copy of the same underlying out-of-copyright photo.

          I came across an 1880 photo taken in an Empherma Fair and copies of it turned up on both Getty Images and the UK National Portrait Gallery and both were claiming copyright over (presumably) their digital image files.

          The only question that remains is how long does the copyright persist if the owner is not a natural person - e.g. is a Corporation or a Museum?

          There appears to be specific protection in the UK for original works of Art held by museums, but I don't think this can where the item is not unique - e.g. a mass produced photograph.

          If they created a Derived Work "B" from an original work "A" then if there are other copies of "A" around then the copyright on "B" does not extend back to "A".

          It is possible to obtain copyight on a previous UNPUBLISHED work which outside of the copyright 70 year term, but it there has been prior publication then I think all bets are off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Protectionism

      I'm not c ertain how Getty applies this as I'm new to them. However Corbis, who have a lot of my images (and now bought by Getty) insist that the copyright owner's name is attached to any image used on the web.

      Having done a quick Google and Bing on some of my images I have found that to be the case in about 90% of the online uses. (Even on Russian websites!)

      It hasn't however stopped some people from lifting images and using them for their own means.

      I found one a few years back used on a T-shirt in America with no idication from Corbis that they had sold said image for that particular use.

      Noticeably, as the web has increased in influence, royaly payments have reduced noticeably. Whereas a quarterly statement from Corbis used to be measured in several hundreds of dollars, it's now about 80 dollars (if I'm lucky) and that's for 3 or 4 pictures - sometimes more.

      On a rather depressing note, Getty pays the prhotographer a much lower commission that Corbis did. Hopefully increased sales will make up for it - but somehow I doubt it.

      Anon (just in case)

  8. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "Content is King"

    How's that working out for you?

    Even 2-hour movies in HD (GB files) are now nearly as portable as an MP3. Images haven't got a hope in hell. Hopeless.

  9. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
    Flame

    Stuff 'em!

    Screw Getty, they've been screwing their togs for ages now, pushing up their cut and lowering ours. I walked on them ages ago and I know a lot of other togs who've pulled their images down and moved them to other stock libraries that pay better.

  10. BurnT'offering

    Simple answer

    Google buys Getty

  11. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    I am unclear as to why Google is not infringing copyright by publishing copyrighted material in general. I can see that textual search results are not an infringement, as they involve displaying a small fraction of the copyrighted text of a site, and so would constitute "fair comment". But publishing any complete image that you do not have permission to publish is surely an infringement of copyright regardless of whether you are running a search engine web site or a cute kitten web site?

    Or conversely, if Google are permitted to embed other people's images in their web pages, then I should surely be permitted to do the same? Do we all have implicit permission to scrape and publish any copyrighted material from other web sites unless it is protected by a suitable robots.txt file?

  12. Netbofia

    No robots

    Well how about putting up code to disallow Google spiders to crawl though certain parts of the website. Or set up watermarks so you can't use the images.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No sympathy needed

    I suspect Getty plans to one day make more money from infringement claims than actually licensing images. Comments are a pretty clear indication few posters have any experience with Getty. Getty already has tools to track down infringing images (ironically, I suspect Google is one of those tools). If you grab an unlicensed image, you better hope it's not owned by Getty (and they've been buying up a lot of competitors, so it's a pretty big risk these days) as you'll find yourself in their legal crosshairs (and paying quite a lot more than the image was worth in the first place).

    The issue here is that Getty is upset users aren't forced to search for images on their own website properties (and might potentially find a similar image at a lower cost from a competitor). Getty could provide tools to make it easier for users to use licensed images (and ensure images in use are properly licensed), but it is more profitable to maintain the status quo, continue buying competitors, jacking up image prices, and suing anyone who looks at them the wrong way. Getty has plenty of assistance from their well payed attorneys... they don't need sympathy from Reg readers.

  14. Talhayousuf

    Reverse image search - Advanced image search to find similar images on google bing http://www.image-search.org/ :-) Why Not have a try??

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