In a bid to deter stealing of other people’s images and to pacify photo agency Getty, Google has removed the view image as well as search by image buttons from its image search results. The changes were announced by the company on Twitter earlier today.
Traditionally, when you were viewing image search results and clicked on an image, Google offered a number of options including “view image” and “visit site.” The view image would take you directly to the image file, whereas visit site opened the webpage hosting that particular image. The view image option is now completely gone and the visit site button has been renamed to just ‘visit’. So now, if you want save an image, you will have to go the webpage and then extract the image. While this change doesn’t stop the theft of images online, it does make it slightly frustrating and absolves Google from the accusations of offering an easy way for people to steal copyrighted images.
The search by image option continues to be available via the image search bar.
But, why now?
The view image button has been present for years now and one would wonder why Google has suddenly decided to remove it.
The search giant has been under fire from photo agencies for sometime now because it provided a quick way to save images. But the agencies became really frustrated when Google redesigned the image search results in 2013 to show high-res version of the images right in the search results. This was the last straw for Getty, which blamed Google for stealing the traffic from its website, thus impacting its revenue in a big way. It filed a competition law complaint against Google in 2016 with the European Commission.
“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,” said Getty’s general counsel Yoko Miyashita in a statement at the time.
Google and Getty reached a settlement last week and part of the deal was that Google remove view image button and better highlight the copyright information. So, Google gets to keep showing high-resolution images, but it loses the view image option. It is not a win for either side, but a good compromise and Google acknowledged the same in a statement on Twitter.
“For those asking, yes, these changes came about in part due to our settlement with Getty Images this week. They are designed to strike a balance between serving user needs and publisher concerns, both stakeholders we value,” wrote Google.