Getty Images is suing Microsoft over alleged Bing Image Widget copyright violations

by Felix Esser

posted Monday, September 8, 2014 at 9:57 AM EDT

Software giant Microsoft is notorious for taking heat from all sides over controversial aspects of its products, and has often had to pay hefty penalties in the past. The company's latest quarrel is with Getty Images, who is suing Microsoft over alleged copyright violations by its Bing Image Widget tool.

The Bing Image Widget is a software tool for web developers that allows for the embedding of images found through Microsoft's Bing search engine onto a website. However, Getty claims, the tool pays no regard whatsoever to copyright, simply grabbing pictures from anywhere on the internet regardless of whether they're being used commercially or not, and without asking the photographer permission -- let alone attributing them.

This, according to the lawsuit, has caused Getty Images "incalculable" injuries, which is why the stock agency not only demands that the Bing Image Widget be taken down (which, apparently, Microsoft has already done), but also seeks an unspecified amount of damages. According to Reuters, a Microsoft spokeswoman said the company was looking into Getty's claims.

Earlier this year, we reported about Getty's own image embedding tool, which draws only from the agency's own pool of images, allows only non-commercial use and attributes the image's copyright owner. Getty's move to make its pictures (more or less) freely available sparked a heated debate at the time.

The lawsuit against Microsoft makes us wonder what this could mean for image search engines in general, as technically, displaying thousands of photographs on a search results page could be regarded as a form of unlicensed embedding as well. Of course, it would make no sense to ban image search engines, as they're an essential tool for many online editors (and also make it possible to track down copyright violations by searching for specific images.)

But apparently, the question of where copyright starts and where it ends on the internet still hasn't been answered satisfactorily.

(via DIY Photography)