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Getty lodges Google Images piracy complaint with the EU

The photo agency is complaining to the European Commission that Google is making image thieves of us all.


Google and the EU could be about to knock heads once again -- this time over image piracy.

Photo agency Getty Images is accusing Google of encouraging piracy and lodged a complaint against the company on Wednesday with the European Commission.

By displaying photos owned by Getty in its own picture search results, Google is taking away traffic that would otherwise go to Getty's website, the photo agency claims.

Getty's case is just the latest in a string of antitrust complaints lodged with the Commission's competition directorate against Google. Only last week, Europe's competition commissioner charged Google over Android abuses following a yearlong investigation. When companies are found to break Europe's competition laws as Google now has on several occasions, they have to adjust business practices to continue operating in the EU.

Getty's complaint centres around the claim that the livelihood of the 200,000 photojournalists the company represents is being adversely affected by Google's image search tool.

"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," Getty Images General Counsel Yoko Miyashita said in a statement.

Since January 2013, Google's picture-search tool, Google Images, has presented high-resolution, large-format images in its search results, which Getty claims prevents people from clicking through to its site and learning about licensing restrictions. Google Images also lets people right-click and save pictures.

Getty said it raised its concerns with Google but that the search company did nothing. Getty had to bear with the presentation or opt out of Google search altogether, rendering it invisible, the photo agency said.

Getty isn't the only company to make this complaint and claims that its submission to the EU supports an earlier complaint made by CEPIC, the Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.