Follow us:

Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

September 4, 2014 at 4:36 PM

Getty sues Microsoft, claims Bing tool leads to “massive infringement”

Update Sept. 8: Microsoft has removed the Bing Image Widget following Getty’s filing of its lawsuit last week. Microsoft issued a statement, saying: “We have temporarily removed the Bing Image Widget beta so we can take time to talk with Getty Images and better understand its concerns.”

From earlier:

Getty Images filed a lawsuit Thursday, claiming that Microsoft’s recently launched Bing Image Widget infringes on, and facilitates the “massive infringement” of, copyrights.

Bing Image Widget, which Microsoft launched about Aug. 22, allows website owners to embed a panel on their sites that displays images brought up using the Bing search engine.

“Bing Image Widget enhances your website with the power of Bing Image Search and provides your users with beautiful, configurable image collages and slideshows,” Microsoft says on the product’s page.

The problem, according to Getty’s lawsuit, is that the images that come up are typically copyrighted, including images whose copyrights are owned or controlled by Getty.

“Rather than draw from a licensed collection of images, Defendant gathers these images by crawling as much of the Internet as it can, copying and indexing every image it finds, without regard to the copyright status of the images and without permission from copyright owners like Plaintiff,” Getty Images said in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York.

Microsoft issued a statement Thursday, saying; “As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this area are important. We’ll take a close look at Getty’s concerns.”

Getty says in its complaint that the supply of images for Bing Image Widget numbers in the “billions — essentially, the entire universe of images” Microsoft’s search engine can find on the Internet, including Getty’s “highly valuable copyrighted works.”

Microsoft, the suit continues, has essentially “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.”

Getty made it clear that the lawsuit was not targeting Bing’s image search function. Rather, it said in the complaint, Microsoft markets the widget as a “website enhancement tool” — one that’s designed to make websites using it to be more visually attractive and, therefore, of greater “economic value.”

Getty contends that Microsoft also derives economic value from the fact that clicking an image in the widget display panels takes the user to Microsoft’s Bing image search website. Microsoft could then benefit by being able to collect more information about users or by being able to charge advertisers more because of increased traffic or increased time that users spend on its site.

“This, more than being a search engine, is really a website tool,”  John Lapham, Getty’s general counse, said in an interview Thursday. “Website owners, unbeknownst to them, are putting up great-looking websites with stolen copyright. …  [The images that come up using the widget] belong to somebody else. And all of it is done without any permission from the photographers or copyright owners.”

Lapham said his company in March launched a photo embedding tool of its own. It enables noncommercial websites and social media users to freely use any of about 50 million of Getty’s copyrighted images.

“The difference is that we have all the contractual rights and relationships in order to represent the content we’re distributing,” Lapham said. “The difference for Microsoft is they don’t have any of those rights.”

Getty is seeking both a preliminary and permanent injunction against the use and offering of the Bing Image Widget until Microsoft can satisfy the court that it’s not infringing on Getty’s copyrights. Getty is also seeking unspecified monetary damages “as may be proven at trial” for any violations by Microsoft of Getty Images’ copyrights.

Getty Images, which used to be headquartered in Seattle, still has about 500 employees here. The company’s headquarters is now in New York City.

 

Comments | More in Microsoft | Topics: bing, bing image widget, getty images

COMMENTS

No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.



The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►