Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 3.93.75.242

Forum Moderators: goodroi

Message Too Old, No Replies

Legality of Google Images Hotlinking

Has anyone ever taken a test case?

     
2:06 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 7, 2003
posts:804
votes: 121


The whole GDPR thing has got me thinking about Google's practice of hotlinking once again (more on that in a moment).
As we know, following the dispute with Getty, Google removed the "View Image" button, however they are still hotlinking the full size image (even if it is not displayed at full size) and so, still costing bandwidth, and not really sending any benefit to the source website.
This got me thinking, and I haven't been able to find any definitive answers: Why does this practice not constitute a copyright infringement?

From the user's perspective, the image is presented as part of Google's web page, so why is the copyright owner not entitled to damages?
If the images are registered with the US library of congress, then surely the owner is entitled to statutory damages from Google? This would be potentially ruinous for Google.

What's all this got to do with the GDPR?
Well, two things actually. Firstly, if the Adsense cookies that Google serves when a user visits a third party website are the responsibility of that third party (to notify, get consent etc.), then surely there can be no argument about Google's responsibility when they serve up a hotlinked image?
Secondly, why would Google not need to get consent from their users to serve up hotlinked images that could potentially allow a third party to identify a user?

Does anyone know of any test cases?
2:13 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Full Member

joined:May 21, 2018
posts:276
votes: 72


I fully understand your concerns, and I share them. But, I am sure that what is protecting Google, is that, a site owner can prevent Google from indexing his images. You can disallow the Google Image Bot, and the image will not show. So, if you do not disallow Google Image Bot, then it means you accept that Google index and show your image.
2:56 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:July 7, 2003
posts:804
votes: 121


@QuaterPan That can't be right - we don't opt-in to being included in Google. With that argument, we would have to contact everyone else in the world and ask them not to steal our images.
4:04 pm on May 25, 2018 (gmt 0)

Moderator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator lifeinasia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 10, 2005
posts:5852
votes: 200


With that argument, we would have to contact everyone else in the world and ask them not to steal our images.
I think the argument is that since GDPR is opt-in, instead of making users "opt-out" by disallowing Google Image Bot, Google (and anyone else) should not be allowed to serve the images unless the site "opts-in" by specifically allowing Google Image Bot.

I would love to see a similar argument applied to outright theft of content/images. Let's say I'm an EU resident and post an image of myself on my blog, that also includes my name (for example, the top 3 finishers in a local 10K race with the winners' names embedded in the image). Some scraper downloads my blog page (including the picture). In the name of GDPR, I demand the scraper remove the image (as well as any identifying content that was scraped). If he refuses, GDPR-related fine! After a few cases get upheld, then just contact scrapers demanding they remove the content in the name of GDPR (even if you're not an EU resident- are they going to risk calling your bluff?).