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Getty Images Files E.U. Complaint Against Google for Enabling Image Piracy

     
9:14 am on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This is an interesting one, and i'm surprised it has taken so long for this to happen.
Anyone with copyright images online will know how Google's image search can make it too easy for theft.

Getty images are, of course, one of the Internet's best known image services, and are very protective of their portfolio, so this one might just see the course.


Photography company Getty Images is accusing Google of scraping images from third party websites and encouraging piracy, adding a new wrinkle to the Mountain View, Calif.’s ongoing legal battles in Europe. Getty Images Files E.U. Complaint Against Google for Enabling Image Piracy [time.com]
In a statement released to TIME ahead of the filing, Getty argues that since image consumption is immediate, “there is little impetus to view the image on the original source site” once it’s seen in high resolution on Google. By making these images available to download, Google has “also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates,” Getty claims.
9:39 am on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Getty are fond of using legislation for profit. Remember their infamous speculative invoicing "scam"?
10:31 am on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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At least with Google we can use the "X-Robots-Tag: noindex" in image directories to stop these files from appearing in their image search (even if Google squawks about blocked content.) Most of the other image SEs, including Bing, do not support this header field.

If Getty is successful with its lawsuit, it could set a precedent that may cause a domino affect beyond the E.U.
12:46 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I don't get it. They have the tools to stop the crawling and indexing of the images. If they let the bots in, what do they expect will happen? Seems a properly formatted robots.txt or proper use of "X-Robots-Tag: noindex" (as keyplyr points out) is much cheaper than a lawsuit.
12:53 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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...scraping images from third party websites


They're saying the images are taken from third party sites, rather than Getty directly (and presumably the third parties have a license). They have no control over the use of robots exclusion there.

Interesting quote, too:

“We want [Google] to go back to search functioning as search,” she tells TIME, “and not search functioning as a substitute of publishers.”
1:32 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Yes, that's an interesting message, and thanks for highlighting it.

This complaint is really important, and it may shape the ways this and a number of aspects of Google's information sources are displayed. For example, the Knowledge Graph panel.
1:41 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Knowledge Graph panel


The opt-out for that is "nosnippet", which is pretty catastrophic for clickthrough rates! I don't think there's any way to just say "no knowledge graph or answer boxes".
2:19 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There's got to be a balance involved in this, and when it's high res images in image search that does seem unreasonable. I know, you might argue that they shouldn't be online, or they should be blocked, but that's the argument made by Getty Images that Google makes it easier for piracy to occur.
2:56 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I suppose they could argue about 'fair use'.
Does fair use have any basis in law? I haven't got a clue.

Fair use of a page of writing is supposed to be a few sentences, or a paragraph. But when it comes to images Google are effectively showing the whole thing -- 100% of it.
3:14 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The easiest comparison is probably with the Google Books case. Some of the key components there were:

- Public good - the judge said "In my view, Google Books provide significant public benefits"
- Transformative - the court ruled that "Google Books does not supersede or supplant books because it is not a tool to be used to read books. Instead, it "adds value to the original" and allows for "the creation of new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings."
- Respectful of copyright owners - Google was deemed to have "maintained respectful consideration for the rights of authors"

Would similar thinking apply to images? There are obviously different circumstances, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.
3:41 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The issue here is "high-resolution slide shows," as opposed to thumbnails.

For what it's worth, in the U.S., an Appeals Court ruled in favor of Google on the fair use of thumbnails in image search back in 2007:

[out-law.com...]

One question that comes to mind is "When does a thumbnail become a high-resolution image" (or vice versa)?" On the low-resolution screens of yesteryear, even an image of relatively small dimensions (as measured in pixels) could fill up an entire display. On today's high-resolution desktop and laptop screens, even a "high-resolution" image of yesteryear might be only the equivalent of a large thumbnail.
9:35 pm on Apr 27, 2016 (gmt 0)

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LOL. Is this what is called a delayed delayed reaction? Like, hello? We should also fold Bing into this because naturally Google wouldn't dip their toes into this type of thing if they were to be standing alone on it. I'm extremely happy to hear about this. It's corrupt really. Of course the image search is a replacement for the publisher or the original source. No need to go anywhere else. That's the goal now isn't it? Perhaps it was this new Google setting that was being marketed at Pinterest like viewing of images that was a tipping point. All I can say is what a delayed delayed reaction. It's only when the big guns get stepped on, is anything really done or spoken about. It has been wrong from the beginning, the only issue was that it was the little guys getting screwed. This strategy works up until you piss off companies that have a voice and some money behind them. I would suspect YouTube is next. Google makes their living off other people's work, always have. They used to send people to you, now they keep them more and more. With the Getty delay, I guess the big companies are really really slow to see what's really going on. On the images though, this truly is not just a Google thing. Bing should be getting slammed too.
12:03 am on Apr 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Another look: [theregister.co.uk...]

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.”


This is a three year delay ... which in the scheme of things in big business is almost a blink of the eye. It would take a year for any data to show, another year (and rising loss) to trend, and another year to document and prepare a case.

Meanwhile, the small site/photographer was hit from day one.

These things happen until enough is enough and the behavior is challenged. Sadly, it is not the end user who will challenge as they are the beneficiaries of such behavior and will surely wail if (when) that "free stuff" disappears.

The concept of copyright has not disappeared. What has happened is that enforcement has been either lax, or behind in method, during this electronic venue, or worse, ignored by the unprincipled to steal all they can steal (for their profit).
9:27 pm on Apr 28, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm getting the "I support Getty Images" bumper sticker on this one.
5:28 pm on Apr 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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If Google was only interested in providing the public with a good service whilst also honouring the original artist/photographer they would show a thumbnail which clearly linked to the original website/image.
Anything else is exploitation hiding behind the mantra of "good user experience"
5:43 pm on Apr 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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That one move by Google took 90% of my traffic and, to date, 98% of my AdSense earnings, thanks heavens I didn't rely on this for a job!
8:43 pm on Apr 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm getting the "I support Getty Images" bumper sticker on this one.

Shades of "Vote for the crook. It's important."
9:30 pm on Apr 29, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Make America Great Again :)
12:41 am on Apr 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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While google images is a great from a user experience perspective I think showing full size images is stealing and prevents most users from visiting the publishers site directly. I don't mind thumbnails as it is a peak at the full result much like search results.

As we all know the past year or so google is now displaying their question and answer box in search results. Once again they are repackaging content to keep people on their site instead of going to the original publisher site. If I was Wikipedia I sure would be pissed because Google has stripped mine them completely.

It is going to take a large company to challenge Google as it will only continue to get worse as Google tries to make more and more money by them showing other's people content to keep users on their site until they click an ad.
5:51 am on Apr 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Reading some analysis here there and everywhere, Getty's main quarrel is that G effectively prevents new business and innovators (competition) by showing all and sending no traffic. Apparently copyright alone is not the reason for their suit, it is the monopolistic and market barrier behavior of G.
12:42 pm on Apr 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The simple of it is that copyright ownership is a right, taking without asking is common place on the internet, and expecting fair compensation for use is not unreasonable. Google does and has enabled easy access to images where a right click and "save as" is causing monetary harm to Getty and other businesses. Here in America, near monopolies in business verticals is common place, chokes off competition and leaves small businesses and consumers at an economic disadvantage. The EU is the right place to fight this fight as the EU is way less tolerant of near monopolies.
10:43 pm on Apr 30, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I'm out of my element in this forum, however and temporarily, I've time to burn.

Two major widget industry orgs websites have allowed in-line-linking to their images from the creation of their websites in 1996. This open in-line-offering has confused the widget people drastically and they believe any website is free-game.

Early on (1999) with my websites I realized that all images needed to be in image-folders, and with all bots denied in htaccess (and by request) in robots.txt.
Over the years, the Google image bot (and even MS) have had a few malfunctions that caused their image bots to rum rampant, thus their UA's were denied in htaccess.

My sites don't offer high resolution images (640 x 480 is the largest), however I've been fortunate to have very few of my images (which are in the thousands) to appear plagiarized on other websites (Don't mind sharing images as long as proper sources are credited).

I've also saved thousands and thousands of other websites images, however don't believe I've ever used one on my own websites (the Time-Life archives are good example).

Had Getty required their subsidiaries to protect the images properly, than Getty wouldn't be in this boat and pointing the finger.
8:36 am on May 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Thank you Getty Images!
Google has been stealing my images and my bandwidth (hotlinking my full size high resolution images in Google Search) for several years now and stopped sending me traffic for my photos. It was about time someone powerful took action.

Actually, why isn't Google doing this on google.de (Germany) and still showing the good old thumbnails without hotlinking the high resolution images? Maybe because they know they are violating copyright laws?

The next one Getty Images should file a complaint against is Pinterest. Same thing here. Lots and lots of high resolution celebrity photos without credits to the photographer/owner.
1:23 pm on May 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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chris,
Pretty sure that Pinterest doesn't run their own bot, rather relies upon users to upload images? (Even if they did have a bot, it's easy enough to stop same bot).
There are multiple such venues where users upload images and then supply inline links on other websites.
Pinterest just provides the service.

Identifying visitors that download your images and then upload to another website may be difficult, however not impossible. It's this visitor that action needs to be taken against,
1:31 pm on May 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@wilderness - they do :)

Pinterest/0.1 +http://pinterest.com/

Host: AWS
23.20.0.0/14
50.16.0.0/15
1:45 pm on May 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Many thanks keyplr.
The bot however is a result of a user/visitor uploading the image.
The following logs:

24.116.77.zzz - - [14/Jun/2012:15:55:32 +0100] "GET /MySub/MySubSub/MyImage.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 23362 "example.com/OtherSub/OtherSubSub/MyPage.html" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 5.1) AppleWebKit/536.5 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/19.0.1084.56 Safari/536.5"
50.16.54.zzz-- [14/Jun/2012:15:56:27 +0100] "HEAD /SameSubSub/SamePage.html HTTP/1.1" 403 - "-" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 8.0; Windows NT 5.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.30; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.648)"
72.44.61.45 - - [14/Jun/2012:15:57:30 +0100] "GET /SameImageSub/SameImageSubSub/SameImage.jpg HTTP/1.1" 403 - "-" "Pinterest/0.1 +http://pinterest.com/"
50.17.117.138 - - [14/Jun/2012:15:58:06 +0100] "GET /SameImageSub/SameImageSubSub/SameImage.jpg HTTP/1.1" 403 - "-" "Pinterest/0.1 +http://pinterest.com/"

In this instance the violator was 24.116.77.zzz, whom uploaded the image to Pinterest.
Pinterest and Amazon simply followed the link.

solution?
Deny from 24.116.77.zzz (or higher in IP range)

Please note: Obscuring logs is a real PITA, and in that process I ran the first two lines (the image request and the page request) together.
5:34 pm on May 1, 2016 (gmt 0)

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There are multiple such venues where users upload images and then supply inline links on other websites.
Pinterest just provides the service.


I agree, Google is much worse than Pinterest. Google is also stealing bandwidth by hotlinking our full size images and embedding them in Google Image Search.
Google must be saving many millions on bandwidth and server costs, simply by stealing our server resources.

By providing the service Pinterest makes it very easy to violate copyrights. A lot of average users simply don't realize that they are doing something that is illegal.
Pinterst is hosting the "stolen goods" on their servers. How legal is that?
Also, Pinterest makes it possible to pin directly from Google Image Search and then Google gets the credit and the link!
12:50 am on May 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Google is much worse than Pinterest. Google is also stealing bandwidth by hotlinking our full size images and embedding them in Google Image Search.

From Google Search Console Help:

"Prevent images on your page from appearing in search results"
[support.google.com...]
1:10 am on May 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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^^ That isn't really helpful, people want to be indexed, people want to be found, before they got traffic through the image search, now google just uses everyone's images to keep traffic for themselves.