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Getty Images accuses Google of promoting photo piracy

Getty Images accuses Google of promoting photo piracy


Photo agency to file formal complaint with EU antitrust commission today

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Carl Court/Getty Images

Getty Images, the US photography agency, has accused Google of enabling photo piracy and undermining its business. Getty will file a formal complaint with the European Union's antitrust commission today, Time reports, marking a new chapter in Google's ongoing legal troubles in Europe. Last week, the EU antitrust commission filed formal charges against Google, targeting the company's Android mobile operating system.

Getty is targeting Google Images in its complaint, arguing that the service scrapes images from third-party sites and promotes piracy by making them available to download. In a statement provided to Time, the agency said that the way copyrighted photos are displayed in Google Images — in large, high resolution formats — deters users from visiting Getty's site, where the images are for sale. Prior to January 2013, Google Images only displayed photos in smaller, thumbnail formats. Getty says traffic to its site plummeted after the change was introduced.

Getty says Google Images threatens "lives and livelihoods"

Google declined to comment on the case when contacted by The Financial Times, though the newspaper says it "broadly" denies any wrongdoing. Getty and Google sought to resolve the issue three years ago, but Miyashita says Google gave the photo agency only two choices: accept the new image format, or opt out of its image search altogether. Getty alleges that the search company has abused its market dominance, and is urging other photographers to join its cause.

"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," Yoko Miyashita, Getty Images’ general counsel, tells Time. "Google’s behavior is adversely affecting not only our contributors, but the lives and livelihoods of artists around the world, present and future."