Microsoft gets hit with lawsuit from Getty Images over Bing Image Widget

Microsoft has been hit by a lawsuit from the well known photo library company Getty Images, who claim that Microsoft's recently launched Bing Image Widget tool violates its copyrighted photos.

The lawsuit, filed today in a New York federal court, slams Microsoft's website tool, which launched on August 22. It allows sites to place a panel on their pages that shows images from the Internet found by Microsoft's Bing search engine.

However, Getty Images, which owns the rights to over 80 million photos, claims such a tool can bring up images that are copyrighted by its service. In a statement, the company said, "In effect, defendant has turned the entirety of the world's online images into little more than a vast, unlicensed 'clip art' collection for the benefit of those website publishers who implement the Bing Image Widget, all without seeking permission from the owners of copyrights in those images."

In a statement, Microsoft said, "As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this area are important. We'll take a close look at Getty's concerns." What do you think of this lawsuit?

Source: Reuters

John Callaham
  • Oh boohoo. Might as well sue every service that bring up copyrighted pictures. Posted via the Windows Phone Central App for Android
  • Its true. Surely if it can be viewed on the almighty internet, copyright isn't an issue. MS aren't selling the pictures, just showing them
  • Why didn't they bring up the concern to Microsoft? (Or maybe they did and Microsoft realized they didn't have a case)
  • Reading MSFT's response from this article makes me come to same conclusion that they did not come to MSFT. "In a statement, Microsoft said, "As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this area are important. We'll take a close look at Getty's concerns."  
  • Yea. Those pictures I got from Bing, I was totally able to enlarge them, and sell them for thousands of dollars... to a blind person. lol
  • That's why I brought them home and they were on regular printer paper. I PAID PREMIUM PRICES!! Posted via the Windows Phone Central App for Android
  • It's understandable. Getty is right.
  • Then don't put your art freely available on the internet.
  • I would love to know how is Getty right for people like you....
    it's a web search, the same that you can do by going to google and bing, if they didn't want their super copyrighted photos on internet, they can always pull them out and end it.
    Microsoft is NOT selling any photo, and it's doing (again) what going to bing image search already does... how is that different? because it can be inside any website so uses can search within there instead of opening a new tab and have bing search? rightttttt....
  • Getty, along with any other copyright holder, has the right to display their images on the internet or anywhere else they like (art gallery, social media, publishing, etc.).  Getty, and other copyright holders, also have the right to be compensated if others are using their material for commercial purposes.  I for one would be a little upset if one of my favorite photographs (a hobby of mine) that I shared to friends via my website ended up being used in some article or publication without so much as a "Photo by cleavitt." Saying that "if they didn't want their super copyrighted photos on internet, they can always pull them out and end it." is basically the same as saying that if an artist doesn't want their art to be photographed, printed, and resold then the artist shouldn't display it in an art gallery.  If the world opperated that way, then most art would never see the light of day and most artist would never get credit for their work. I don't think the problem is with MS allowing people to find and see the pictures.  Any search engine does the same thing and that actually helps Getty promote their images.  It is up to the user of the images to pay and/or get approval before using the images for commercial purposes.  The fact that Getty is only upset about this tool and not Bing in general tells me that simply finding and displaying the images is not the problem. I think the issue here is that this particular MS tool doesn't make it clear to the user that these images are not necessarity public domain.  If the user is under the impression that this is a collection of non-copyrighted images (like the "clip art" library in MS Office programs) then they would use the images without seeking permission from the copyright holder.  This could probably be solved with a warning that "images found by this tool may be copyrighted" and maybe some addtional functionality to help the user find the source of the image (URL, embedded copyright info in the image file, etc.).  
  • Right, but like you said this is not Microsoft's issue and they are not responsible to police the users. It's up to the user to ensure they are not infringing on copyright regardless of the tool they use.
  • I agree that it's ultimately the user of the image that is responsible, but I can also see how the MS tool might be confusing those users into thinking that these images are free and clear of copyrights.  I'm not saying that it would make MS legally liable, but in big business, lawsuits are often used to get the attention of the other company with a non-monetary settlement as the goal.  Perhaps Getty tried to contact MS, but couldn't get in touch with the right people so they decided to go with the legal route.  It sounds like MS has conceeded that the complaint has some validity and that they are willing to work with Getty for a reasonable fix.
  • You're wrong. But nice try.
  • Dude, our schools can't even use images like this without proper acknowledgement to the original author. Of course, a lot use things anyways, but that doesnt make it *okay* Can you explain how he is wrong? Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • Use your words like a big boy.   I'm not wrong.  That is how copyright law works.  You should probably educate yourself about the topic instead just resigning to being ignorant.
  • Bravo. I totally agree with you, and i would like to see an educated rebuttal. Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • But it's simple to lock an image you can make it where it can't be right clicked on etc if you don't use some kinda of copy protection on your site then it's your fault if people save them Posted via the Windows Phone Central App for Android
  • You cant blame the victim for being a victim -_- Posted via Windows Phone Central App
  • 1) "Copy protection" has nothing to do with Copyright LAW.  If someone doesn't lock their doors that doesn't make it legal to steal their stuff. 2) Media Copy protection is only effective against users that are almost computer illiterate.  It is not possible to make an image visible on the internet and at the same time prevent if from being saved.  Screenshots, reading the image URL directly from the HTML source code, and disabling Javascript are just a few of the ways around internet image copy protection methods. 3) Bing, and other search engines, are not humans and they don't need to right click on anything. They parse a webpages HTML code and download the images directly by referencing the image URL.
  • Getty Images is not above using other people's pictures without permission either. In 2009, they settled a case out of court to the tune of $100,000 for using pictures without permission. In 2012, the court ordered them to pay the sum of $1.2 million to a photojournalist whose pictures Getty used without permission. In another case, Getty used in advertisement pictures of an HIV patient without permission. This case is still under litigation.
  • @Cleavit76, I thought the images on Bing had a info link that shows where it is and who took it if you hover over the info link
  • This case isn't about the Bing wallpaper or Bing Image Search.  I'm sure MS gets permission prior to using images the Bing wallpaper images and they do show the source on their image search. This case is about a "widget" that web developers can embed in their webpages.  It basically uses images from Bing's Image search to build a collage of images based on whatever search phrase the web developer configures into the widget.  It does show the source of each image if you hover over it, but if the image owner wants compensation then just giving credit is not always enough.  Anyway, It's kind of a grey area in my opinion.  I think that Getty has a point and I think MS has good intentions, but it's kind of hard to classify this widget and it also probably depends on how the web developer uses it.   Here is an example of the widget in question (preview at the bottom)...
  • Troll alert!
  • If the images can be publicly indexed by search engines, why can those search engines not "bubble up" those images in a user control? So long as the widget/user control is fed directly from the source, or links to it, I fail to see the problem.
    The widget will still show the referer. If Getty wants certain images blocked from this type of hotlinking they can simply use a RewriteCond that checks the referer and sends back a 403 if it's not part of their approved referers. This lawsuit seems frivolous to anyone with a modicum of understanding of the server side control that is available to web servers.
  • Right on ms is not hosting them either the user still gets the image from the site Posted via the Windows Phone Central App for Android
  • Took the words right out of my mouth or (to be exact) typed the words before I could type 'em :p.
  • My thought exactly ..
  • screw you Getty
  • But...but...but they're pictures.
  • I understand what you're saying, but I have to disagree.  Photographers like to eat, and when their property is taken without proper record they don't receive the royalty that they deserve.  In the end, if this happens enough, they stop sharing their work with the world, and we all lose.
  • ehmm and how does your comment make sense?
    this is not violating anything.... if a photo is indexed to be used by bing search, then it will be search. it's not like having this widget will be any different than having a new tab with bing search opened there.... the different it's obvious users would be able to search easier inside websites thanks to this.
    it's not like it will find magical commercial photos and give them for free.... they will be the SAME bing photo search already find. so NO... your comment doesn't even make sense how a photographer would stop sharing because users can have photo results from bing within a website.
  • Microsoft makes $ off of Bing. Providing a set of wallpaper images for its users without paying the copyright Owners isn't fair, or legal. This isn't "Fair Use" if it increases the sales of a for profit piece of software or services. MS should have been a bit smarter about this.
  • No no no no no. Ms don't make money off the images or that widget. Advertising you nonce. So your point is moot. Be quiet. Go home. Back to your cave.
  • Oh shut up.
  • I'm suing MS tomorrow for just being MS. I feel it violates my eyes from using my SP3.
  • "well known"...
  • If Getty has them in an unprotected and easily indexed state then it's their problem
  • Thankfully, according to copyright laws, you are wrong.  See my post above for more details.  It is impossible to fully protect any kind of art (especially photographs) without hiding them from the world completely.  What good is art if nobody ever sees it?
  • Surely all MS has to do is make it possible for Getty to request images be removed on a case by case basis, the same as YouTube.
  • Or maybe, add a note which says "This picture may be copyrighted", or emboss the copyright information at the corner by reading it from the EXIF?
  • I don't understand this lawsuit. I think I need more information. If the pictures are freely available on an open public medium like the internet, you are making those images available to everyone. You are not allowed to use those images for commercial purposes, like and ad campaign or reselling those images. Are they saying that this widget is being used by websites and make the images available for commercial purposes?
  • Bing IS a commercial use. I guess they think the difference here is the images are presented essentially as "Eye Candy", not search results and that is something they should be paid for. Our at least agree to waive their payment at their discretion.
  • I do understand that Getty wants to protect their copyright material, though I find it uncessesaryand immature to directly file a law suit without first have a talk with MS. Personally I believe MS would have happy worked together with Getty even without waving the lawhammer.
  • They just want money and nothing more smh!
  • Money ... the biggest curse humanity brought on itself.
  • Most likely they thought it would be an easy case and in turn some easy greens with a couple of zeros tossed in for good measure.
  • Exactly what I thought. Comes across as a quick grab for some potential cash.  
  • That's bs..
  • I understand Getty's POV, but I think their PR guy could be a little less dramatic.
  • I wonder what role Corbis Images (a competitor to Getty, started by none other than BILL GATES!) plays in this.
  • A bunch of butthurt drama queens.
  • I don't get it... I know the thin line with copyright issues... But if the idea is to load"Bing" search images, house of this different worth searching the internet for images? Maybe I am missing something with this widget tool...
  • Getty sues everyone. They should f**k off and get a life.
  • Poor Microsoft
  • Sounds odd to me. Suppose a web developer uses the Bing widget, do they have control over the pictures shown or is the widget basically just a photo search engine? While Getty images might not fall within the realm of public domain, if they are suing over the possibility of a website pulling up their images which have already been indexed by Bing and other search providers that sounds like an odd thing to sue over. It's one thing to pull random pics from the web and throw them up on your site which is a no-no but a search engine widget for a site pulling indexed pics is something else.
  • Always somebody crying;( ;( ;(
  • Search engines should simply stop indexing idiots like Getty, that oughta teach them a lesson !!!
  • And Microsoft should also simply end support for Google Chrome, until google decides to bring Youtube and its other services to Windows Phone. MS is being too lenient to that sick monopolistic giant Google has become.
  • MS has been fined billions of dollars in both the US and Europe for including IE as part of Windows.  China is now looking to fine them as well for the same thing even though every OS these days has a browser included.  Can you imaging what would happen if MS actually did block Chrome?  I can't even guess how much those fines would be.
  • This is why we can't have nice things.
  • What a load of ball bags.
  • Ridiculous
  • Lolz they dont stand a chance
  • Getty is wrong
  • Can someone point me to a site with this Bing image widget in use? I don't think I've come across one yet. BTW, this is not a bad publicity for this tool.
  • Meh.. Post about the future Pantasonic windows looking phone...
  • It is a valid concern, albeit somewhat silly given the nature of search. Still, MS didn't refute it and said they would investigate. What more could they ask? It isn't like MS couldn't filter out their junk or watermark "source" or some other time of arrangement for them (and potential others).
  • If you can save the image directly from the widget or Microsoft does not link back to the original site when the image is selected, then this lawsuit has merit. There are also steps that Getty can do to better protect their images; check the referrer, put watermark on them or provide only a lower quality version for public viewing. If both sides are honest, I have no idea why they cannot work out something between them directly instead of resorting to lawsuits. If Getty has informed Microsoft about this issue previously but no action was taken, then a lawsuit is acceptable otherwise it just looks like someone wants a piece of "rich" Microsoft.
  • Getty is a snotty, pretentious company that's known for this kind of behavior. Their entire business model revolves around holding copyrights and selling licenses for content that they did not create. There are entire subjects for which they own nearly all extant images. It's important to their very existence that they protect their right to charge people for the images they own - if they don't protect their copyrights they could have a hard time defending them. Of course, copyright law needs reform so companies like this can be forced to stop monopolizing art.
  • Their entire business model revolves around holding copyrights and selling licenses for content that they did not create.
    They're hardly the only ones doing this. Corbis owned by Bill Gates is in the same business. I'm sure there's no dearth of similar examples in the music, movie and other industries. Even in the tech world we have companies who make nothing (that's not quite right, they do make loads of money) and whose sole purpose is to sell licenses for their patents and prosecute infringers. The whole copyright and patent system is a f'd up mess.
  • Most seem to misunderstand what is being used. This has nothing to do with the image of the day on Bing. It os essentially just an automatic search window result that you can embed. ( See ). Getty thinks this result window enables people to *potentially* use images they own as a sort of decoration if they comprise even one tile of the result view. Honestly, it's a pretty bullshit claim given this was doable for years with basic web programming. If Getty doesn't like their images being rendered by any outside referring pages, like Google or Bing image results, then they could easily handle that on their end. This is a "file suit and cross your fingers" situation.
  • Microsoft needs to go buy a goddamn camera and retake every picture in the Getty archive from the exact same angle and then make them all public domain at www. ghettyimages.suc
    Problem solved
  • A Lumia 1020 ought to do the job...
  • YES! Good. yes.
  • E a louça ninguém quer lavar...
  • I find it a little funny that Getty doesn't consider this "Free Advertising" on one of the most viewed webpages ever. I can't tell you how many times I've researched where the Bing Images come from. Otherwise, I would have never been exposed to them.
  • I can make a widget with the same functionality in a matter of 10 minutes. Getty can't and shouldn't sue everyone.
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  • Getty Images is not a stranger to using other people's images without permission. In one case, they settled out of court to the tune of $100,000. In another case, the court ordered them to compensate $1.2 million to a photojournalist whose pictures Getty used without permission. A third case is still under litigation. In this particular case, Getty allegedly allowed a picture of a person to be used in advertisement without permission. So far Getty has been paying out money to people who have filed cases against them for illegal use of people's pictures so perhaps they think now is the time to recoup all that money by filing a case against Microsoft and collecting easy money from them.