Getty Images goes after Google over 'image piracy'

Getty Images has lodged a formal complaint with European Commission against Google, accusing the internet giant of facilitating copyright infringement.

The stock photo company’s formal complaint claims that Google Images has been “siphoning traffic and promoting piracy” which in turn has hurt its contributors and partners.

The complaint is the latest in a series of legal hurdles facing Google in Europe over alleged anti-competitive behaviour which Brussels is currently investigating.

In its complaint Getty argues that a Google Image upgrade in 2013 created “captivating galleries of high-resolution copyright content” that cemented its dominance over site traffic and advertising spending.

The ease with which a user can right click on an image and share has “promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates,” Getty said in its complaint.

Yoko Miyashita, general counsel at Getty, said that Google has created a monopoly in the image market which has subsequently harmed innovation.

“Getty Images represents over 200,000 photojournalists, content creators and artists around the world who rely on us to protect their ability to be compensated for their work. Google’s behaviour is adversely affecting not only our contributors, but the lives and livelihoods of artists around the world — present and future,” she said.

Google maintains that it was not trying to prevent internet users from using images in emails or blog posts and was in fact attempting to offer a tool which allowed users to embed images from its vast library if it was for non-commercial use.

The wider investigation into Google meanwhile is now drawing to a conclusion after five years. The EU competition commissioner is expected to unveil a raft of measures designed to curtail Google's dominance across the internet search sector and android phone software.

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