The photo agency Getty Images is filing a complaint to the European Union’s antitrust commission, claiming that Google’s image search function has encouraged widespread image piracy.
Time reports that Getty is troubled by Google’s search system in two main ways. First, it reckons that the full-screen slide shows that the system offers removes the need to head to the original website on which an image is hosted. Once you’ve seen the image, it argues, you’ve seen it. Time to move on.
But it also claims that by making images easy to download, Google has created a world of unwitting criminals: “Accidental pirates”, who don’t realise they’re infringing copyright by downloading and using images that they have no legal right to. Getty has a point: Who hasn’t watched on in horror as a presentation at work contained a slew of images that were clumsily downloaded from Google’s image search? It’s the new clip art.
There are, of course, filters on the search engine that allow you to refine the results to show only images that are available for re-use. But you have to know that feature exists, and what it all means, to use it. Meanwhile, Getty argues, images belonging to agencies, photographers and artists get recycled with little thought given to who created them in the first place.
Apparently Google hasn’t done much to cooperate with Getty over the issue during the last three years, hence the complaint. At any rate, Google has some other charges from the European Commission to worry about right now.