Microsoft Removes Bing Image Widget Tool Following A Lawsuit

Microsoft has dropped its Bing Image Widget – a controversial feature of the search engine – shortly after the company was slapped with a copyright lawsuit last week.

The feature was introduced to supposedly make it easier for website operators and bloggers to search for images on the web and embed them to their own websites.

However, Getty Images decided to take an action against Microsoft’s beta and filed a legal complaint against the company as it felt that the service was encouraging illegal copying by turning digital images into an unlicensed “clip art collection” for the benefit of website operators without getting permission from the copyright owners of the images.

Getty also implied that they might also take necessary action against the websites that used the tool.

Microsoft responded quickly and a preliminary hearing in federal court in New York followed on Friday. The company felt that the lawsuit will become an embarrassment for them, given that it is known for persistently campaigning against theft of its own software.

While Getty has been fruitlessly battling against illegal copying of its images, it has its own free tool for embedding images from its collection for personal blogs and non-commercial sites. This move appeared to be the company’s way of conceding that it’s impossible to guard all corners of the web for copyright infringement.

With the company’s own tool, Getty gets proper photo credits for its photographers and is considering selling ads in the future.

Microsoft’s Bing Image Widget, unlike Getty, adds the Bing name to the photos and does not force the sites and blogs to show the original source of the images. According to the lawsuit, the service has been used by website operators and bloggers for their sites since it was launched two weeks ago.

Microsoft has since commented on the issue saying it is taking a “close look” at the concerns of Getty. It also added that as a copyright owner as well, laws in that area are “important.”

A day after Microsoft received the complaint – asking a judge to put a stop on the search engine’s tool and award an unspecified amount of damages – the company has removed its image widget tool from the web. If you proceed to Bing’s Image Widget page, you’ll find the service offline, along with the short sentence “We have temporarily removed the beta.”

The software company released a statement on Sunday saying that it has temporarily removed the beta to discuss with Getty Images so they can better understand the company’s concerns.

For more than a year, the two companies have been in talks about Bing’s way of using Getty’s images. The image widget service has not yet been a part of the discussion as it was just launched last month.

Getty Images owns one of the largest digital images libraries and is known for being an aggressive copyright defender, sending threatening letters to thousands of small blogs and websites over the years for using its photos without a license. The company said that it owns or represents more than 80 million digital images.