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Getty Images files anti-competition complaint against Google – ‘right click hi res image piracy’

‘Effective online search is an essential tool for the discovery of images and Google Images dominates this market. Today, the Google Images format promotes “right click” piracy by making hi res imagery easily available, with no requirement for the user to go to the source site to find out how they might legally license or seek permission to use the image in question. Google’s practice involves presenting content in such a way that it deters users from engaging with content creators; this impacts artists’ ability to monetize interest and thereby reduces the level of reinvestment available for the creation of new content.’

Getty Images will today file a competition law complaint against Google Inc. with the European Commission. The complaint follows on from Getty Images’ submission in June 2015, when it joined as an interested third party in support of the European Commission’s existing investigation into Google’s anti-competitive business practices.

In brief
Getty Images’ complaint will focus specifically on the image search functionality of Google, which has brought on the following issues:
• Impacted the competitiveness of Getty Images’ business by siphoning traffic and promoting piracy – to the detriment of the 200,000 contributors who rely on us to earn a living, as well as our 300+ image partner relationships.
• Impacted the interests of content creators around the world, allowing Google to not only profit from their work, but to reinforce its role as the internet’s dominant intermediary and thus maintain its monopoly over search.
• Put a handbrake on innovation through siphoning traffic – artists need to earn a living in order to sustain creativity and licensing is paramount to this.
• In addition, Google preferences its own image search vertical over rivals such as Getty Images.

In full
The Commission’s current proceedings against Google are wide-reaching, with Google accused of distorting search results in favour of its own services. This affects a myriad of industries, from media companies like Getty Images, to comparison shopping and travel websites. Just last week, a further set of proceedings were issued against the search engine, to address Google’s business practices around its Android mobile operating system.
Getty Images’ complaint focuses specifically on changes made in 2013 to Google Images, the image search functionality of Google, which has not only impacted Getty Images’ image licensing business, but content creators around the world, by creating captivating galleries of high-resolution, copyrighted content. Because image consumption is immediate, once an image is displayed in high-resolution, large format, there is little impetus to view the image on the original source site. These changes have allowed Google to reinforce its role as the internet’s dominant search engine, maintaining monopoly over site traffic, engagement data and advertising spend. This has also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates.
Getty Images’ General Counsel, Yoko Miyashita says: “Getty Images represents over 200,000 photojournalists, content creators and artists around the world who rely on us to protect their ability to be compensated for their work. Google’s behavior is adversely affecting not only our contributors, but the lives and livelihoods of artists around the word – present and future. 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.”

Miyashita continues: “Getty Images believes that images have the power to move the world by spurring action and driving change. It is key that these issues with Google are addressed and that the dominant search engine in Europe leads users to legitimate sources for imagery, rather than creating an environment that benefits Google alone. A fair marketplace will allow photographers to continue to capture the ground-breaking imagery that informs and impacts the world every day.”

Getty Images firmly supports a more image-rich, digital world, but one that recognizes and remunerates the content creators who create this imagery. In 2014, Getty Images launched its embed tool, which revolutionized the visual content industry by making imagery available for easy, legal sharing at no cost for non-commercial use. This embed functionality provides consumers with an easy, legal alternative to the “right click,” an alternative that ensures the content creator is appropriately credited for their work and that the image is clearly traceable to Getty Images in the event that a user wishes to license the image for a commercial purpose.

Visit Where We Stand to learn more about how Getty Images is working with policy makers and industry groups to defend intellectual property and ensure a fair marketplace for content creators.

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