It may or may not be news to you that Google have come to an agreement with Getty Images which allows the search engine giant to use images from the Getty library across its products and services.
It may not even interest you to know this, but it would seem that behind the hand shake there are other movements which will have consequences for both image creators and users, and I’m cautiously optimistic that the changes will be positive.
Getty had issued a legal claim, an antitrust lawsuit, against Google because of the way the search engine returned high-resolution images in search results which allowed users to download Getty images without having to visit the Getty site. The same deal happens for individual photographers whenever someone searches for images. The result is, fewer visits to a site and greater ease for an unscrupulous organisation or individual to download and re-use images without payment, permission or acknowledgement for the photographer.
A couple of things seem to be happening here, though the full details are not especially clear, but on one level it would seem that Google have committed to making it harder for people to unknowingly or unwittingly download and publish images which are copyright-protected and at the same time put searchers back in touch with the creators of the material they find.
At the same time, the Google/Getty deal means Getty will be paid for Google to use images held by them (Getty) in their (Google) products and services. It strikes me that this licensing deal could amount to Google simply paying Getty a sweetener in return for being allowed to show Getty images in search results; a sort of retainer, if you will.
I very much hope that this move by Google means they’ll be working towards a more creative-friendly business model, one which is more sympathetic towards photographers and more understanding of how the way Google’s systems work has a direct impact on creators.
It’s unusual for me to write about Google and Getty in such positive terms, but credit (and bylines) where credit’s due, this does seem like a great opportunity for Getty to do something positive for the wider professional photographer community and for Google to reciprocate in a very constructive way.
For my part, this isn’t simply about protecting my own copyright, but also about protecting my clients’ images against unscrupulous exploitation, something which hasn’t always been easy to do. Let’s hope that task just got easier.