Google Favors Pirate Sites Over Those That License Images Legally

Posted on 7/28/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

On July 19, 2014 the TV channel France24 broadcasted a comprehensive 11 minute report on "Why Google is annoying/ Pourquoi Google nous agace." This report has been translated into English and can be found here.

In the report Gilles Taquet of the stock agency Photononstop explains that his company is “endanged of going out of business” because hackers are grabbing images off of his website and creating stock photography websites of free images. In their search results Google then promotes these pirate sites (because they pay higher ad rates to Google) and the fact that Photononstop has the same image is buried so deep in Google’s search return order that no one knows they exist. Of course, Photononstop is the only legitimate licensor of the image.

Taquet said, “When we confront people who are using these images illegally their first answer is always, ‘but they were on Google Images’.”

Sylvie Fodor of CEPIC estimated that 85% of the images found on Google are used without the rights holder’s permission.

My bet is that it is much higher than 85%. The 85% comes from PicScout which is only searching the sites of business and professional users. When we factor in personal users the percentage is probably much higher. Google is encouraging hackers to steal images and set up sites at virtually no cost to themselves so they can earn revenue from people who will pay to advertise on their “pirate site.” Then in order to get a high position in the search return order these pirate sites pay some of the revenue they earn from their advertisers to Google.

It is a vicious cycle that is likely to get worse. People tend to go to sites that show lots of pictures. Advertiser pay to advertise on the sites that get the most traffic. It makes sense to steal pictures to make your site more popular. Professionals who charge to use their images can't compete with sites that give the images away for free. To learn more about what CEPIC and the EU are trying to do to put some brakes on Google check out this story.

Copyright © 2014 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Jim Pickerell Posted Jul 30, 2014
    In response to my comment about unauthorized use being much higher than 85% Alfonso Gutierrez, CEPIC President wrote:

    We know this. We have the precise statistics as part of of the anti-trust complain presented by CEPIC to the EU that was accepted by the Commission by the end of last year, and we have added more data in our very latest response, in this July 16, to Google answer to the EU on our initial anti-trust complain. Our industry has to do more than accepting the facts and giving explanations, CEPIC is moving forward to defend the interest of photographers and right holders while indicating to the EU that Google should pay for the abusive use is doing when indexing images indiscriminately promoting piracy and benefiting its own interests. It is about time that we do a bit more than just guessing on what is happening.

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