Will Stopping Google Image Scraping Solve Photographer’s Problems?

Posted on 9/29/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Getty announced on April 27th that it would file a complaint against Google with the European Commission concerning Google’s anti-competitive business practices. On May 20th, to the chagrin of CEPIC, they announced they would not pursue a copyright case against Google in U.S. courts  

What I’m hearing, but have been unable to confirm, is that when Getty joined the EU complaint, Google said, “OK, in future we won’t show any Getty images in our search returns.”

While a lot of the people searching Google were using images without paying for them, apparently many people who have actually been paying to use images have also been using Google to find the images they need.

Not showing images in the Getty collection would be easy for Google. When someone searches for something like “Big Ben London” Google’s search algorithm using keywords and visual search goes out and finds all the images on the Internet. At that point the algorithm can compare all the Big Ben images found with Big Ben images on Gettyimages.com. If Google finds images from the Getty collection among those returned, Google will not show them to the Google user doing the search. This could eliminate not only images found by searching the Getty site, but also images that had been legally licensed from Getty and are part of a blog posts.

When Google searches the Internet for something like “Big Ben” they obviously find hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of images. But they only show a few hundred of what their algorithm determines are “the best.” The rest don’t really exist from Google’s point of view. When I searched for Big Ben, all I could see was less than 500 images.

Google used to tell users the number of images found with each search. The numbers used to be in the hundreds-of-thousands for almost any search. At that time, they only let users look at the first 1,000 images returned, regardless of the number that really existed.  Now, they may be showing even less. They haven’t promised anyone that they will show every image of the subject being requested.

Why Should Photographers Care?

I’m hearing from some agents who are represented by Getty that they have seen a significant drop in their Getty sales (20% to 30%) in the last few months. They are attributing this to the fact that Google user can no longer find their images when they use Google to search for pictures. As a result, these users end up using pictures taken by someone else.

I have not heard a lot of such reports and there could be other reasons for the decline.

Maybe Google is “Too Big To Sue.” Maybe this is a perfect example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

What Can We Do?

I would like to encourage Getty photographers, and stock agencies represented by Getty, to do some Google searches for some of your best selling images. If those images are never shown as part of the search returns, it may be a good indication that images in the Getty collection are being blocked in Google searches.

Let me know what you find.

Copyright © 2016 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.  


  • Michael Runkel Posted Sep 29, 2016
    I have seen very very few. Once I click it appears a white page with the comment that they try to connect you to either Getty or you can return....it has never been like that before. Michael

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