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Google aims to help pro photographers via changes to image searches

Everyone from website builders to merchandise makers continue to pull images from Google without first checking to see if any conditions are attached to the use of the potentially copyrighted content. The picture pilfering is a serious problem for photographers who’re trying to make a living from their craft, with Getty Images deeming the situation so serious that it lodged a complaint against Google in 2016. Now Getty Images and Google have reached an agreement that should work for all photographers, and will hopefully lead to fewer downloads from Google Images for uses that contravene copyright laws.

In an email sent to its photographers and seen by PetaPixel, Getty said its concerns about Google’s use of images has now been recognized by the Mountain View, California company. “Google has worked closely with us to address many issues raised by Getty Images around Google Images,” the email said. Getty said that the web giant has agreed to implement changes to Google Images, “including making the copyright disclaimer more prominent and removing the ‘view image’ button.” The button takes web users to the best quality image available, enabling a quick and easy download.

Getty Images, one of the most prominent photo agencies in the world, said the changes would benefit “all image owners globally.”

Licensing partnership

The pair have also agreed to a multi-year licensing partnership that will allow Google to use Getty Images content across its various products and services, though few details were offered regarding the terms of the deal. “This agreement between Getty Images and Google sets the stage for a very productive, collaborative relationship between our companies,” Dawn Airey, Getty Images CEO, said in a statement. “We will license our market-leading content to Google, working closely with them to improve attribution of our contributors’ work and thereby growing the ecosystem.” The photo agency’s 2016 complaint claimed that Google “scraped” image content from other publishers, offering it in search results for free — a practice that it said in its own particular case resulted in a loss of revenue for the company and its photographers.

Getty Images said it had “fought for a fair and respectful marketplace for content creators around the world,” adding, “We believe our approach to work closely with Google will best protect copyright and the livelihoods of photographers, and other artists who rely on licensing to earn a living and fund the creation of new works.” It described the agreement as “a significant milestone” but noted that “other battles remain.” Indeed, while the changes may go some way to showing web users that it’s not OK to download any image you like for your own use, there will still be those who deliberately ignore copyright notices and download such images for a range of uses, including commercial.

Dealing effectively with these more determined offenders is another challenge entirely.

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