Google to Change Image Search to Make Photos Harder to Steal, Copyright Clearer

Google to Change Image Search to Make Photos Harder to Steal, Copyright Clearer

In conjunction with Getty Images, Google has announced it will make some changes to make it harder for people to accidentally steal your photographs from its image search results. One of the changes will include the removal of the "View Image" button.

Even photographers who don't have their work stolen are often familiar with situations in which they've seen friends or family take images from the web to promote their own businesses or other commercial endeavors without any thought to copyright. It happens every day. And while ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, the fact that a large percentage of the general public believes they can simply use any image they find online for any use whatsoever means results in the understatement that a lot of copyright violations happen every day. When it comes to something as difficult as protecting copyright, it's hard to do much as images only become more easily searchable. But Google is finally working with Getty Images to make some changes.

Google will make two major changes as it looks into other tweaks it can make to reduce image theft and misuse. First, it will remove the "View Image" button that brings users directly to the image file online and sits next to the "Visit" button that takes you to the link of the image source. While it takes basic computer knowledge to know how to find the image file online, going that extra step is a much more intentional act of actively seeking to download an image that might be copyrighted (and, needless to say, not your own). Second, Google will make copyright notices more prominent in an effort to make image copyright and ownership more clear to normal users.

The hope is that these changes can greatly reduce the number of accidental image theft done in ignorance from laypeople (such as our own family members) that need to have a photographer in the family explain to them why it's not okay to take any image they like from Google to use on their own websites. And it makes sense that making people take one more step to actually scrape images from the web will likely result in a huge drop of such instances, leaving behind largely purposeful thefts.

These changes aren't coming quite so amicably as it might seem, however. Getty Images has attacked Google both at home and in Europe for how easy it makes downloading images. While the law in the U.S. is fairly clear about how images may be hosted and displayed by third parties, public opinion has begun to shift as the law might need to and often has to adapt accordingly to new technologies. Additionally, the E.U. has shown a specific distaste for and lack of resistance to exerting its power over some of the largest American technology companies for everything from special tax deals to anti-trust issues.

These changes also come with an announcement of a new partnership between Getty Images and Google that will allow the Internet search company to use Getty's images throughout its product offerings.

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12 Comments

Paulo Macedo's picture

If someone is willing to steal a photo, they will do it, no matter what!
500px is one of those websites where it is easy to steal a photograph with fair resolution with small expertise. If one knows how to handle the page source, they will find the link for the original picture quite easly, even browsers do have extrensions to allow for such steal.
Most of pictures "stolen" in google, are used for personal powerpoints or small to insignificant businesses that cannot affors to properly pay salaries not to speak for a photographer.
Not that I am excusing them, no, I'm not. But big companies, if they want, they will have someone who can and will steal the picture.
Example, FStoppers own galleries allow for such steal, by right clicking the picture or even by navigating the source code of the page.
To me, this is all useless, unless they find a way to actually process the image "in-browser" using some sort of encrypted .js parser. Even that will eventually be broken by some application or extrension to the browser.

Usman Dawood's picture

The reason why this is good is that many people don't know the rules or the fact that they are stealing. This may help prevent a lot of image theft because it provides education to a whole bunch of people on the internet.

Paulo Macedo's picture

Yes. I've understood the initiative. Educational purposes to allow people to be aware of what they're doing. But, will the common user feel guilty? Maybe these people will even ignore these premises and keep stealing.

Stas F's picture

Sometimes when you click on "visit website" the image is just not there at all. Or opposite, there can be thousand pictures on a page and you have to search for one you need visually. Time for Bing to shine lol

Sadly Bing image search is a mess
And as you said I just use the Button to view the image full screen. Most websites make it unnecessarily hard to do that, or even find the image. What is all this protection worth if it handicaps the normal viewer. This will just force everyone to use a new stupid workaround

Stas F's picture

Yeah, like browser extensions that will bring that button back )

Paulo Macedo's picture

Use Yandex, the russian search engine :P

Stas F's picture

It will probably hijack your emails and start mining bitcoins on your computer while uploading to your desktop photos of Putin on a bear

Jen C's picture

This move also helps to protect Google for their role in facilitating copyright impingements. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there was a class action suit in the works. Also to drive traffic toward websites.

Joe Healey's picture

"Google will make copyright notices more prominent in an effort to make image copyright and ownership more clear to normal users." Is this referring to embedded metadata copyright info?

Jen C's picture

I think an average user wouldn't know how to look for embedded data. More likely they'll have a big bold disclaimer: "These images are copyrighted."

Adam Ottke's picture

They already have a tiny notice stating that images may be under copyright, but it's hardly prominent. Supposedly they're going to beef that up a bit.