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.
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.