Getty Images announced today that it has filed an unfair competition complaint against Google Inc. in Europe, where Google is already under fire. Getty objects to Google’s image search platform, which enables users to easily find and scroll through high resolution, full-screen displays of photographs. That deprives Getty of traffic to its own website, and takes potential sales away from the creators, publishers and distributors of those images, Getty alleges.
In a press release, Getty explains that the complaint addresses “changes made in 2013 to Google Images… which has [sic] not only impacted Getty Images’ image licensing business, but content creators around the world, by creating captivating galleries of high-resolution, copyrighted content.” Prior to 2013, Google made only low res thumbnails available in their search engine, so users had to click through to the sites of Getty and other publishers and image libraries to see full-screen images.
Getty is already a third party in the European Commission’s investigation of Google’s business practices, which the Commission believes are anti-competitive. This new Getty complaint supports that investigation, Getty says, as well as an earlier complaint filed with the European Commission by Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage (CEPIC), an organization representing photo agencies in Europe.
“Google’s behavior is adversely affecting not only our contributors, but the lives and livelihoods of artists around the word – present and future,” Getty Images’ General Counsel, Yoko Miyashita said in a statement. “By standing in the way of a fair marketplace for images, Google is threatening innovation, and jeopardizing artists’ ability to fund the creation of important future works. Artists need to earn a living in order to sustain creativity and licensing is paramount to this; however, this cannot happen if Google is siphoning traffic and creating an environment where it can claim the profits from individuals’ creations as its own.”
In an open letter also published today, Miyashita urged photographers to get involved in the complaint. “A fair market for your works is the lifeblood of your business – no one is more greatly impacted by Google’s practices than you, the content creator,” he writes. “We invite you to engage local regulators to help put a stop to the anti-competitive scraping of your content.”
Photographers’ responses to the news on social media have been mixed.
Getty* just filed suit against Google Images for making people think photos are free.
*Owners of $1/pic iStockPhoto pic.twitter.com/OVGeiRxCPh
— David Hobby (@strobist) April 27, 2016