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Getty Files Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Microsoft Over Bing Image Widget

By Anthony Thurston on September 5th 2014

Getty has thrown the legal gauntlet down in front of software giant Microsoft over the Bing Image Widget. The lawsuit alleges that Microsoft has infringed on the copyright of millions of images in the Getty online collection.


At the heart of this lawsuit is the newly announced (August 22nd) Bing Image Widget, which to put it simply, allows users to embed any image found in the Bing image search onto their website via a code supplied by Microsoft. According to Getty, as stated in their lawsuit, “In effect, defendant has turned the entirety of the world’s online images into little more than a vast, unlicensed ‘clip art’ collection for the benefit of those website publishers who implement the Bing Image Widget, all without seeking permission from the owners of copyrights in those images.

Microsoft has responded saying that they take copyright very seriously, and are investigating the matter. Which would be all fine and good, except that Getty’s legal counsel, John Lapham, claims that Getty has been in talks with Microsoft for over a year regarding the breakdown of copyright protection online, and Microsoft’s role in that through their Bing search engine. The image widget, which was only released a short time ago, was the straw that broke the camel’s back – so to speak.



According to the lawsuit, Getty is requesting that the court force Microsoft to remove the widget and pay Getty an ‘undisclosed’ sum, for what it calls “incalculable” damages to the company.

As a photographer, I can certainly see why Getty would have an issue with this. But, short of removing the Bing image search all together, I doubt that this will really solve any online image stealing issues for Getty. Most people I know who steal images online do so with copy&paste or some similar method, a widget just makes it easier for computer illiterates to do the stealing.

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Getty is a heavyweight in the image licensing world, while Microsoft is one of – if not the – most valuable software companies out there. This is a heavyweight matchup if there ever was one.  It will be interesting to see what comes of this.

You can find more details from the original story over at Reuters.


What are your thoughts on this lawsuit from Getty again Microsoft? Do you think that this widget, which has been live for just over 3 weeks, has really caused that much damage to Getty? Leave a comment below.

[via DIY Photography]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jeff Morrison

    thanks for sharing

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  2. Eric Sharpe

    I’m not up on how Getty royalties work, but how much will the artists themselves benefit from this fight?

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  3. Ralph Hightower

    Doesn’t Microsoft own another stock photo agency? Why are they using Getty?

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  4. John Cavan

    I don’t see this making it to court unless Microsoft really wants to dig in their heels. Given that Getty is owned by a private equity firm, who is probably unhappy with their continued performance, this could be a play to try and get Microsoft to buy them out.

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