updated 02:18 pm EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
Millions of images at risk of theft, according to Getty court filing
Getty Images has launched a suit against Microsoft's usage of Internet imagery with its "Bing Image Widget." The suit alleges that Microsoft, with its new tool "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" without permission of the copyright holders.
Getty Images believes that the damages it faces are "incalculable" but will settle for an immediate block of the product and unspecified damages. Getty owns the copyright on 80 million unique images, a very small fraction of the total number of images on the Internet.
Admitting to the quantity of images on the Internet, Getty says that "the supply of images for the Bing Image Widget is therefore in the billions -- essentially, the entire universe of images that Defendant can find on the Internet -- including Plaintiff's highly-valuable copyrighted works.
What the company neglects to mention, however, is that the images retrieved are of "thumbnail" quality, of little use for other than display or prototyping, and often "watermarked" by the content owner. Getty has its own embed tool, which allows users to embed Getty images, with code for purchase of the rights for permanent display -- Bing's search doesn't have the same purchase-and-embed feature.
A Microsoft spokesperson claims that the company will consider if Getty's claims have any weight, saying that "as a copyright owner ourselves, we think the laws in this area are important. We'll take a close look at Getty's concerns."