Is Google stealing your images? Surely not; it's only indexing them. But wait. The newly re-tooled Google Image Search sometimes delivers a full-size image. So how can Google call that an index entry and not... an image?
That's what has copyright holders concerned, even as users praise the redesigned tool. Me? I hated it at first, because I hate change. But I soon figured it out.
At first, Image Search results still appear as a page of moderately large thumbnails. In the past, you'd point your cursor at an image of interest, see it expand a little, then click on it if you liked it. The image would appear, with the hosting Webpage behind it; closing the image would take you to the Webpage. You also had the option of clicking a link to the right of the results to see the image full size.
What's changed? With the new image search, pointing your cursor at the thumbnail no longer expands it, but clicking on it gives you the image: just the image, not the hosting Webpage. You have three options: Visit the Webpage, view the original image, or view image details.
But you already have the image. No, not necessarily full size. If you click on "view original image," you may get a larger version. But often enough, what you see is the full-size, original image, without visiting the hosting page, or even seeing it appear, ghost-like, behind the image.
And, yes, you can right click and save the image. Cue outrage:
This updated functionality completely removes the source website from the display, encouraging the user to download the image directly from the search results.
The complainant continues:
Photographers won't be paid a royalty for the use of their protected images. Images are now more likely to be taken out of context (they may be on a website that sells furniture, for example, and could be licensed images or photos taken by the site owner). Just because Google has found and republished an image doesn't mean that the image can be used by anyone for any purpose.
Well, to be honest, all those bad outcomes were perfectly possible with the old Image Search. Also, although there's no question in my mind that the redesign goes further toward cutting the hosting webpage out of the picture, many webpages don't have rights to the images they're hosting in the first place.
The real problem is surely that we've been down this road already with Google Books.
Just over 10 years ago, Google began its Babel-ish project of digitizing all the books in the world. Oh, just indexing as usual, said Google. No, said authors and publishers, you're not just creating an index, you're making copyrighted works available -- or large parts of them -- without permission. The resulting class action is still grinding through the courts.
It seems to me that photographers, fine artists, and graphic artists are at something of an unfair disadvantage when it comes to stirring public support for their intellectual property rights. When someone copies and publishes a book without permission, most of us still have a visceral sense that a wrong has been done. But just one photo?
What Google is now doing is taking complete works (images in this case, but they might as well be texts) and -- in many cases -- displaying them in their complete and original forms. As a writer, I'd be scandalized if Google did the same thing with my articles. Contrast it, too, with YouTube, where users voluntarily upload content, rather than have Google just scrape it from somewhere else and publish it.
If anything, given the scope of Google's collection, this is a bigger problem than anything proposed by Pinterest.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution
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