Microsoft is facing a lawsuit from Getty Images over the company’s new feature, “Bing Image Widget.”
This new feature was rolled out last Aug. 22 which encourages websites to embed digital images found on Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Getty claims that the service is a “massive infringement” of copyrighted content. The company also stated that the new service is already being utilized by businesses to decorate their websites.
Getty Images, which produces and distributes content such as photos, videos, music and other multi-media products, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York and is asking a judge for the product to be blocked immediately and grant an unspecified amount of damages. The actual damage to Getty, according to the lawsuit, is “incalculable.”
The lawsuit claims that the Bing product is granting access to the endless number of images that can be found online with no regard to whether the images are copyrighted, instead of accessing from a collection of licensed images.
Getty represents or owns over 80 million images and has earned a reputation for tirelessly fighting against illegal use of their images. However, it still isn’t able to prevent the prevalent breach of copyright because of the ease of how photos can be copied and pasted to different websites. Getty is known to send threatening letters to websites to warn them to remove its images – a battle that’s drawing comparisons with music labels’ losing legal battle to block illegal distribution over the internet.
The company, early this year, is releasing code that’s now making it easier for websites to embed its images on their sites as long as the images are not used for commercial and that they credited the images to Getty.
Bing Image Widget, which, according to the lawsuit, is already being used by websites around the world, offers similar service so the images found on the image search engine could be added to a site with one click. However, Microsoft does not prohibit commercial use of the images and does not force sites to indicate the original source of the images, adding the Bing name instead.
Microsoft lacks the power to grant legal rights to the unlicensed photos it got from the web. Other websites that use the images could also be in for legal attack, according to Getty’s general counsel, John Lapham.
Lapham adds that the Bing Image Widget is an example of how search engines are pushing the boundaries of copyright law by allowing internet users to easily copy and paste photos for their own purposes.
For more than a year, Getty has been in a fruitless discussion with Microsoft about whether the software company needed a license from Getty for the uses of its photos by Bing. The same discussion is also under way with Google, which has not taken a license as well, according to Mr. Lapham.
A Microsoft spokeswoman said that the company would take a close look at Getty’s concerns and being a copyright owner company as well, they consider the laws in this as “important.”