Google Accused of Promoting Photo Piracy by Getty Images

An official complaint has been raised by the photographic agency Getty against the top search engine Google. The search engine has been accused of scraping images from photography site into its own galleries.

The formal complaint from Getty with the European Union’s antitrust commission added a new chapter in Google’s ongoing legal troubles in Europe. As of now, Google already faces charges of breaching EU competition laws. A European Commission spokeswoman said, “The commission has received a complaint, which it will assess.”

Getty says Google images threaten “lives and livelihoods” because Google made some changes to image search in 2013, which promotes piracy. Now, the service can scrape images from third party sites and make them available for download in large, high-resolution formats. Prior to January 2013, Google only displayed low-resolution thumbnails in its search results. Since the images are now available for free download and that too in a much better resolution, why will anyone try to visit Getty’s site where they are available for sale.

US-based Getty argues the changes Google made promote piracy and give the tech giant unfair advantages in traffic and advertising. The image service Getty represents more than 200,000 photo journalists, content creators and artists. By this behaviour of Google, the lives and livelihoods of artists around the world, present and future are adversely affected. These people post the images for earning their livelihood and not just for fun. It is accusing Google of monopoly over site traffic, engagement data, and advertising spend.

Getty tried to resolve this issue with Google three years ago when the dominant search engine brought about the changes in its Image search. According to Getty Images’ general counsel, Yoko Miyashita, Google gave the photo agency only two choices: either accept the new image format or opt out of its image search altogether. She continues, ““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.”

The company has in the past dismissed any such allegations of misusing its dominant position to stifle competition. As of now, Google declined to comment on the case though it “broadly” denies any wrongdoing.

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