Lets put some bits of information together:
- According to this article, 97% of the DMCA takedown notices that Google receives are legitimate (and they receive millions of them). Which translates to: there’s a lot of stuff hosted on Google’s various services that infringes copyright.
- A provider whom I had sent a DMCA takedown notice actually copied me in the conversation with the infringer. Here’s what the infringer replied:
“we didn’t hack [the image] from his site – we found it through Google.” (I corrected the spelling).
If that’s not just a lame excuse, and whether they actually think that what they find through Google is free to use I don’t know, but anyway, it leads me to…
- This. How Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing present image search result details (click to open larger and to see additional notes)…
Notice something? All sites place a button labelled “View” or even “Download” together with the image, providing a deep-link directly to the image and outside of the context of the page where it is used/embedded. DuckDuckGo doesn’t even bother to add a note that images may be subject to copyright. Google does that, but at a very small font size, in dark grey on black (can you see “please just ignore this” more obviously?). Bing shows that note at a larger front size at least. If you ask me, it should be bold and red.
Now in the case of Google – complaining about the amount of DMCA takedown notices they receive (which leads to response times of two months by the way) and at the same time presenting images with a convenient way to download them directly from the search results seems to be a bit contradictory to me. (also, I don’t know how adding deep/direct download links to images fits into Google’s mantra of “making the world’s knowledge more accessible”, but that just as a side-note.)
That’s a problem. The real question is: why do search engines get away with this? And the answer is: because photographers have no lobby. If they’d add a direct download link to search results for videos or music, they’d be in hell because the MPAA and IFPI lawyers would be all over them in no time. We’ve been brain-washed for years and we all know how videos and music are so much more worthy of protection!
It seems like photographers can be ripped off all to easily on the other hand – so that’s why the search engines just do it? Shiny image search results, convenient download links. Is there any photographer out there who likes having their images handed out by search engines that way? Where are the PPA or the ASMP, promoting the interests of photographers here?
Don’t get me wrong: we need search engines. But in the case of images, why do they have to show the content they find as more than just a medium sized thumbnail? Why do they have to rip images out of context and make them directly available for download? What’s wrong with showing just a link to the page/site where the image is used/embedded, just like it is done with all other content that is indexed? Why are only images treated like that, together with a quasi-invitation to violate copyright laws?
And yes, I know, image theft would still just be a right-click away for those who want to download the photo. Or a screenshot could be made. But I don’t see how image search today and the way the results are presented are helping photographers. Why do I not even get a chance to show the large size image only in the context of my website? There may be a licensing link, copyright information, terms for non-commercial usage in blogs, etc. – this is all taken away by the search engines today.