Microsoft is being sued by Getty Images Inc. for photo copyright infringement after allowing website owners to embed the Bing Image Widget and thus display pictures on their pages without paying.
Microsoft’s online photo tool was released last month and was supposed to enable publishers to introduce a new widget on their websites in order to display photos through the Bing search engine, also owned by the Redmond-based tech giant.
As Reuters is reporting today citing lawsuit documents, Getty Images states that websites are thus getting access to its collection of 80 million photos without paying and no matter if these images are copyrighted or not.
“In effect, defendant has turned the entirety of the world's online images into little more than a vast, unlicensed ‘clip art’ collection for the benefit of those website publishers who implement the Bing Image Widget, all without seeking permission from the owners of copyrights in those images,” the company explains in the lawsuit filed in federal court in New York.
Microsoft says that it’s aware of the lawsuit, but is only now looking into the matter because it takes copyright violations very seriously.
“As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this area are important. We'll take a close look at Getty's concerns,” a company spokesperson is quoted as saying.
The Bing Image Widget is available on Microsoft’s Webmaster Help & How To center, with the company providing all the necessary tools to generate the needed code, adjust the size, layout, colors, language, country and other visual settings.
“Bing Image Widget enhances your web site with the power of Bing Image Search and provides your users with beautiful, configurable image collages and slideshows. What's more, Bing Image Widget is easy to configure,” Microsoft says on the FAQ page of the widget.
Getty claims that the damages are “incalculable” right now, and John Lapham, general counsel for the company, explains that he has already contacted Microsoft to discuss the matter. This widget is no longer just a search tool because it displays photos without authorization, he says. Getty is also offering its very own widget, but it can only be embedded on non-commercial websites, while photographer information is also displayed.
“Now you have someone else’s picture in full, beautiful display on your website, having never paid for it and with no attribution to the photographer at all,” he adds.
We’ve also contacted Microsoft for more information on this, so we’ll update the article when we get an answer to our questions.