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Getty sues Microsoft over Bing's 'massive image infringement slideshow'


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

September 5, 2014 | 3 min read

Getty Images has filed a lawsuit against computing giant Microsoft claiming that search engine Bing’s image widget unlawfully accessed and reproduced its content, facilitating a “massive infringement” of copyright.

Microsoft will pay substantial damages if found guilty of infringement

Microsoft-owned Bing's website claims that its image widget “enhances your website with the power of Bing Image Search and provides your users with beautiful, configurable image collages and slideshows”.

However, Getty pointed out that many of the images displayed through the app were used regardless of copyright status - and that much of the content belonged to the image firm.

The lawsuit, filed to a New York US District Court read: “Rather than draw from a licensed collection of images, the defendant gathers these images by crawling as much of the internet as it can, copying and indexing every image it finds, without regard to the copyright status of the images and without permission from copyright owners like plaintiff.”

In response, Microsoft said: “As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this area are important. We’ll take a close look at Getty’s concerns.”

Getty added that the computing giant had potentially breached the copyright of “billions - essentially, the entire universe of images”.

The lawsuit concluded that Microsoft had abused “highly valuable copyright works” and turned the entirety of the world’s online images into little more than a "vast, unlicensed ‘clip art’ collection for the benefit of those website publishers who implement the Bing Image Widget.”

Microsoft markets the Bing Image Widget as a “website enhancement tool” to increase the aesthetic appeal of websites. Getty will argue that Microsoft derived unlawful profit from the tool as a result of its use.

John Lapham, Getty’s general counsel, also alleged that the tool caused website owners to unknowingly breach the images copyright too.

He added: "All of it is done without any permission from the photographers or copyright owners."

The image site will also seek an injunction against the widget until a verdict is delivered on its legality. Getty has announced it will seek monetary damages for the image violations.

Earlier this year, Getty launched its own website image-embedding tool, which instead uses copyright-free images.

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Getty Images, Inc. is an American stock photo agency, with headquarters in Seattle, Washington, United States.

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