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Getty Images flings competition sueball at Google Image Search

If you can see it in search, you won't buy it, says image bank

Getty Images has announced it will file a competition law complaint against Google with the European Commission.

The photo library's beef with Google is that in 2013 it changed its image search service so that it instead of displaying thumbnail images users were instead offered “high res large-format content.”

That change, argues Getty's general counsel Yoko Miyashita, dried up traffic to Getty's sites and promoted piracy by making it possible to download images with a simple right-click/Save As.

“Because image consumption is immediate, unlike other mediums searchable through Google, such as news or music, once an image is displayed in high-resolution, large format, there is little impetus to view the image on the original source site,” Miyashita argues. “By creating its own captive, image-rich environment and cutting off user traffic to competing websites – and reserving that traffic exclusively for its own benefit – Google is able to maintain and reinforce its dominance in search.”

“It does this without contributing to the costs of creating the content that Google displays and relies upon to attract and maintain users.”

Miyashita says Getty has been moved to act by Google's intransigence and also by last week's decision by European regulators to sue Google over Android's alleged monopoly. The beak also writes that Getty hopes other competition regulators will take an interest in its European foray.

Getty's action should not be a surprise: the organisation was registered as an interested party when the European Commission first started investigating google. We also know that the Commission probed Google Image Search in August 2015, asking image owners what they thought of the service.

Getty also has form calling out tech giants: in 2015 it sued Microsoft over an image embedding tool that scraped the internet and made it possible to place images owned by third parties in any web page. Microsoft backed down quickly, pulling the embedding tool and later striking a new partnership with Getty to bring the latter's images to the masses.

Getty's not saying if a back-down will satisfy it this time. With the EU already going after Google and the Alphabet subsidiary having stood its ground for nearly three years, a swift rapprochement looks unlikely. ®

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