Getty Images takes on Google over rights

Getty Images has taken on the might of Google, claiming that the search giant has been undermining its business and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of its contributing photographers and journalists.

The Financial Times has reported that Getty was to lodge a formal complaint in Brussels arguing that Google was abusing the business of photojournalism without generating the content itself.

Google old logoGetty has also accused Google Images of harvesting its photographs in a way that siphoned traffic away from Getty’s paid-for website – a practice called “scraping”.

The FT reported: “Margrethe Vestager, EU competition commissioner, has already issued two sets of charges against Google — accusing it of abusing its dominance of web search to promote its own shopping services, and of abusing dominance of its Android operating system to lock customers into using Google apps.

“The Getty complaint broaches a third area of concern known as ‘scraping’ — where Google is accused of using content generated by rivals to promote its own services. Some of Google’s most vocal critics are travel websites, which have accused the group of culling hotel and restaurant reviews and using them to bolster the quality of Google’s own travel services.

“The complaint means that the European Commission will have to form a view on whether it believes competition rules have been broken. Google declined to comment specifically on the case but, more broadly, denies having broken any anti-trust rules.”

The report included a comment from Getty’s lawyer which described Google’s practice as “promoted piracy” and “widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates”. Getty said that it raised its concerns three years ago but Google had replied that Getty should either accept its new presentation of images or opt out of image search, in effect becoming invisible on the web.

Several media organisations are concerned that Google is scraping their content, with some claiming that Google has become the main portal for accessing their material, rather their own websites. News Corp, Rupert Murdoch’s American-based business, also filed a complaint this month.

Getty Images, which includes a large London-based office and sports photography staff, including many members of the SJA, reckons to have around 200,000 contributors whose livelihoods are threatened or compromised by Google’s actions.