In late August, Bing introduced a beta of the Bing Image Widget, a way for websites to embed Bing Image search results in their web pages. You would set up a search query and some size parameters, and Bing would return images directly to your site. Apparently that didn’t go over too well with Getty Images, who have sued Microsoft in US District court in New York over “massive infringement” of copyright issues. Reuters posted on the lawsuit on Thursday, and since then Microsoft has removed the beta and all links to information about it “temporarily”. Microsoft told Reuters it was looking into the claims:
“As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this area are important,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “We’ll take a close look at Getty’s concerns.”
According to the Reuters post, Getty Images has been in discussions with Microsoft for “more than a year” about copyright concerns:
John Lapham, general counsel for Getty, said his company has been engaged in discussions with Microsoft for more than a year about what he called the “erosion” of copyright protection for online images.
The widget, he said, goes well beyond a search tool by helping websites embed copyrighted images for commercial use. Getty’s own embedding tool, by contrast, is only available for non-commercial websites and includes photographer attribution, he said.
“Now you have someone else’s picture in full, beautiful display on your website, having never paid for it and with no attribution to the photographer at all,” he said.
What’s surprising about all of that is that Bing would release the image widget at all, of course, and unless it comes back in a form that provides proper attributions and copyright protections, we doubt we’ll be seeing much from this little beta again.