mssfldt - 6:35 pm on Oct 4, 2012 (gmt 0)
probably you are right, sorry. I didn't see changes in Germany, perhaps it will be rolled out here in some days.
What I observed is that the pages where the images-search link to get worser and worser. So I could not believe that there will be a Panda-influece for images. But of course I might fail.
You are right: Google did not announced every update in imagesearch.
The last point you mentioned is in my eyes the biggest problem: stealing the link in Google imagesearch by hotlinking (or copying). That is what I would call a major update in imagesearch: if Google could find the real author of an image (by age, trust of site, size or all together).
Looking forward to whats coming up :-)