Google officially announced major changes to how image search functions. The announcement was made on Twitter by Danny Sullivan’s Twitter alias, @searchliaison. There are two changes. The first change is to remove Google’s “view image” button. The second change is to remove the “search by image” button. The impact to web publishers is expected to be positive and web publishers greeted the news on Twitter with applause. Google search users reacted negatively.
Many web publishers disliked the view image button for a long list of reasons. But perhaps the most important reason is that many publishers felt that Google’s view image button helped content thieves steal their images. In fact, Google may have been forced to remove the view image button as part of a settlement of a legal complaint by stock photography company, Getty Images.
In a press release Getty Images announced a “partnership” with Google. According to the announcement, Google is licensing images from Getty Images.
“This agreement between Getty Images and Google sets the stage for a very productive, collaborative relationship between our companies,” said Dawn Airey, CEO, Getty Images. “We will licence our market leading content to Google, working closely with them to improve attribution of our contributors’ work and thereby growing the ecosystem.”
Google’s official line on Twitter acknowledges that the changes were forced on Google through the settlement, which might explain why Google chose to announce this informally through Twitter instead of through a typically cheerful blog post. Here is the text of the official tweet:
For those asking, yes, these changes came about in part due to our settlement with Getty Images this week (see also theverge.com/2018/2/15/1701 7864/google-removes-view-image-button-from-search-results). They are designed to strike a balance between serving user needs and publisher concerns, both stakeholders we value.
In April 2016 Getty Images filed a complaint against Google with the European Commission, alleging that Google’s image search was aiding the theft and piracy of copyrighted content.
“Getty Images’ complaint focuses specifically on changes made in 2013 to Google Images, the image search functionality of Google, which has not only impacted Getty Images’ image licensing business, but content creators around the world These changes have… allowed Google to reinforce its role as the internet’s dominant search engine, maintaining monopoly over site traffic, engagement data and advertising spend. This has also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates.”
Web publishers on WebmasterWorld reacted positively to the news as word of the announcement trickled out. Here are typical reactions: