With its new Bing Image Widget
Microsoft is making free use of copyrighted photos to promote and advertise its site. See the little Bing logo at the bottom left of each picture display. Bing is now able to advertise its brand, free of charge, on an other sites that uses the Image Embed tool.
Any other commercial operation would need to license use to many of the photos shown in order to use them in advertising. Technically, Bing may be able to get away with this because the images are being hosted on Bing and not copied to another site. I believe this crosses the line between being a “search engine” and “commercial use.”
In fairness*, and in exchange for the free use of these images in its own promotion, Bing could also implement a system that would enable image creators who wish to control the usage of their work, and license rights for other commercial uses, to also advertise and promote their businesses when their images are shown in one of Bing’s displays.
This could be accomplished with very little expense to Bing, and unobtrusively. Here’s how.
Begin by placing a notice on the Bing Images search page a notice that says, “Some of the images found here may need to be licensed if you wish to copy and paste them on a web page, or use them in any other way. Bing users do have permission to use the Bing Image Embed tool to display the returns from any search on their web page. For more information, check here.”
Then Bing would need to establish a searchable database of images that need to be licensed and enable Bing users to use Bing’s Image Match tool to identify the copyright holder and find contact information for someone who could handle the licensing of rights.
An existing example of such a database can be found at the Copyright Hub
. There are already in existence several databases of 200 to 300 million unique images that require permission and licensing before use. These databases could be used to initially seed the Bing search operation.
While only a small percentage of all the images found on the web need to be licensed before use, in order to protect the rights of these creators, and to provide legal protection for web users, it is critical to make it possible for anyone searching the web for images to determine if a particular image needs to be licensed in order to comply with applicable laws.
Covering The Costs
The primary problem is providing a cost effective way for anyone who wants to announce to world that their images need to be licensed before use to have their images included in this database. Here’s how I think that could work.
First, anyone wanting to upload their images would have to comply with requirement established by Bing.
– In order to minimize overall administrative cost for Bing a system of authorized Uploaders would need to be established.
A - Uploaders would need to apply to Bing for approval, possibly undergo some training or testing to insure that they could properly prepare the images and associated data according to standards set by Bing.
B – Trade associations, Image distributors, Stock agencies or companies set up for the sole purpose of acting as intermediaries between individual creators and Bing might serve this function.
- Individual creators could join one of these organizations. The organizations would be responsible for insuring that the image files were the right size and that all the necessary data was submitted in the proper manner and format for connection and association with each image file. The organization would then upload the file to the database. Small numbers of images could be uploaded online. Large collections might be delivered via hard drives.
A – The data would include the creators name and contact information and possibly a link to a site that would provide more details about minimum licensing fees.
B – In some cases the Uploaders might handle the preparation of this data as part of the service they offer.
C –In cases where the creator did not want to make his or her contact information made public the Uploaders could be the contact. The Uploader might then handle negotiation on behalf of creator or put the customer in direct contact with the creator.
D - Some organizations like Stock Agencies might want to handle all negotiations themselves. Other Uploader organizations established for the sole purpose of being an Uploader, or trade associations, might be more willing to let each individual creator handle their own negotiations and be compensated for their services in other ways.
Bing would cover all costs of operating the search engine in exchange for the right to allow consumers to freely use the Image Embed tool to post any of the images found on their respective sites.
One way or another creators would need to pay something for this service. It will probably need to have some relation to the number of images uploaded to the database. The person who has 30 images he wants to protect should not be charged as much as the person with 3,000. In some cases it may be an association benefit. Stock Agencies may benefit enough from the additional licenses to offset the costs. Sole purpose Uploaders may pay a much higher royalty than Stock Agencies normally work when they license a use. For those who never happen to make a sale there will have to be some cost, but it should be minimal.
A lot of the Uploader’s administrative time could be used up dealing with customers who are not willing to pay the fee the creator expects. This problem could be minimized by supplying a link to minimum pricing information as part of the search return. There should be a template so individual creators could establish different minimum prices for their work.
Each creator should be supplied with a unique Creator Code so the information in the database could be easily updated by the creator. If contact information changes or the creator decides to terminate a relationship with one Uploader and move to another it should be easy to make such a change, and solely under the creators control.
If a minimum number of keywords (say 15) were supplied with each image, as part of the responsibility of the creator, when conducting a search Bing could show images that need to be licensed first before showing other images found through its broader Internet search. This might improve the quality of Bing’s offering.
Bing might also offer users the option of only searching for images available for free use. In order to do that they would need to check each images found on the Internet against all the images in the “to be licensed” database before delivering them for viewing by the person doing the search. Many of the images found in a normal Internet search are found on web pages of people who have legally licensed use of the image, but have no right to authorize further use of that image.
I will be very interested in hearing everyone’s comments as to why this won’t work.
*I know fairness is a dirty word for large corporations. The goal is to walk as close as possible to the line of legality in order to maximize revenue and increase shareholder profits.