Criticism of the new Google Image Search

Berlin, 17.05.2017 - On May 9, a delegation made up of representatives of the picture industry met with Google representatives in the Berlin offices of the group. The background of the meeting is the open protest letter of nine associations, initiated by BVPA, pointing to the infringement of the rights of authors and picture owners by the new image search.

Unlike in the past and since February 2017, after clicking on a preview image, the picture now appears in large format (blow-up) without the context of the source website, however shown together  with supposedly similar pictures, without a copyright indication and with a “Share” button for social media or e-mails.

The Associations Initiative considers the displaying of the pictures in large format as an unacceptable reproduction and communication to the public, as the display of the picture in its original size makes the visit of the original website superfluous. Google turns itself into a content provider proposing to users a search-generated picture album for browsing.

The “Share” function represents also an unecessary part of the search result display therefor is not covered by any factual consent. The Associations Initiative urges Google to return to a legally compliant search screen, and in particular to remove the Blow-Up and Share features. In Berlin, legal and economic concerns, sustained by results from the BVPA members’ questionnaire, were once again presented in a face to face meeting. Cathy Edwards, head of the “Google Image Search,” a video conferencing agency, highlighted the need to better understand the concerns and needs of the image industry in dealing with image search, especially in the area of ​​marketing.

On the other hand, the Google representatives seemed to have little interest in discussing the compatibility with German law, the problem of the drop in traffic acknowledged by photographers and picture agencies and the danger of increasing copyright infringements on images through the newly introduced “Share” function. The so-called user experience based on the current user interface is at the center of the group’s interest which is why the demands of the initiative for fundamental changes have been ignored.

As for legal concerns , the Google delegation merely stated that it generally requires a better education of the user.

Yet, according to a survey conducted by the European CEPIC industry association, 85% of the images found by visual search systems are illegal copies. 80% of these illegal images were distributed through search engines like the Google image search.

Google appears to be more open to the ideas of the Associations Initiative regarding better attribution (credit, use of metadata) as well as the possibilities of de-activating the right-click function (download and copy-and-paste).

Both sides expressed the wish to continue their conversation this year and a follow-up meeting in summer is being planned.

About the association initiative
In an open letter to Google Germany, nine picture associations criticize the infringement of the interests and rights of photographers, picture agencies, illustrators and graphic artists by the new Google image search. These associations are: the German Association of Professional Image Providers (BVPA), the German Association of Journalists (DJV), the Center for Picture Industry (CEPIC), the Illustrators Organization, the Professional Image Creators (pic), the Alliance of German Designers (AGD) Berufsverband Free Photographers and Film Designers (BFF) and the Central Association of German Professional Photographers – Bundesinnungsverband.