“Usage Rights” Image Filters On Google And Bing

Posted on 1/16/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Google has just made it much easier for searchers to find images they can legally use for FREE – even for commercial uses. Bing introduced this feature last July.

Go to Google. Use the images search feature and search for any subject. Click on “Search Tools” and under that click on “Usage Rights.” The default search is “not filtered by license,” but the searcher can change that to any one of the following:
    Labeled for reuse
    Labeled for commercial reuse

    Labeled for reuse and modification
    Labeled for commercial reuse with modification
If the searcher chooses “Labeled for commercial reuse with modification” she is free to:
    • to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work
    • remix – to adapt the work
    Under the following conditions:
    • You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
    • If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.
There are no options to search for images that must be licensed. In fact there is no practical way to separate such images out from all the rest of the images on the Internet because there is no recognized coding system that indicates that an image must be licensed for use.  

Google image search is the number one destination for people looking for photographs. It is the first place almost everyone goes to find photography, especially those who do not know about photo licensing companies. This feature could present some major problems for companies like Shutterstock and other microstock companies that have spent tons of time and money making sure that their images appear at the top of Google image searches.

There are over 288 million images on Flickr that allow some type of free use and over 71 million of them allow use for commercial purposes. (See here)  And then there are a lot of other free images available through sites like www.en.wikipedia.org, commons.wikipedia.org, www.fotopedia.com and a host of others. Many of these images on all types of subjects are of top professional quality.

We suggest that you do some searches for the kinds of imagery you normally shoot and see what kind of competitive images are available. We suspect this search feature will eventually have a strong impact on the demand for travel location images, nature, scenic and wildlife photography and any type of imagery where people are not involved and releases are not required.

There are risks for users, but how many will pay attention?

1 - Google does not offer “licenses”, it just filters images by the “labels” it claims to have found along with the image. The user may need to track the creator down and that is not always easy.

2 – In some cases images that have been posted on Flickr may have been copied from somewhere else. In such a case a Creative Commons license, even if were attached to the image, would not apply.

3 – In most cases the creator’s credit must be connected to the work for the CC license to apply. We all know how many images are used commercially today without any “distracting” credit attached. If the image is found on a site that picked it up from the creator then that site must be credited as well for the CC license to apply unless the user can go back to the original creator and get the image from him.

4 – And then there is the model and property release issues. Almost never will someone who is giving an image away for free have gone to the trouble to obtain model releases from the people in the pictures. When some of those people find their images used in ways they don’t appreciate there will be lawsuits.

5 – There are also trademark issues. Professional photographers and stock agencies are aware that there are certain subjects that they cannot photograph for any type of commercial use. When every amateur in the world can post any picture he shoots and attach a CC license to it trademark lawyers are likely to get a lot of business.

Of course if someone uses an image they have found through a Google search and a lawsuit arises Google won’t be any help. Google points out, “There's some fine print, of course. This feature identifies images that are tagged with licenses that authorize reuse. You'll still have to verify that the licensing information is accurate. We can help you take the first step towards finding these images, but we can't guarantee that the content we linked to is actually in the public domain, or available under the license.”?

Paul Melcher points to one long term effect of this filtering system. “If users can set their default search results then pretty soon, professional images will never appear in a Google Image search result. Thus no one, besides picture professionals, will ever know that the professional images exist, let alone available for purchasing. The impact could be dramatic for some. The proponents of a copyright free world have scored a big gain with this.”

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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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