Judge rules on infringement, while Getty hands over images to Google

There were two stories that caught my attention yesterday and as the world would have it they both centred about a similar topic that I wrote about yesterday, protecting your images and copyright.

A judge ruled in a case involving copyright infringement by AFP and the Washington Post. The case was brought by AFP against Daniel Morel. Morel was making a lot of noise about his photographs of the Haiti earthquake; he shared on Twitter being used without his permission. The AFP wanted the court to rule that they had not infringed Daniel’s copyright and sought damages for defamation. Daniel Morel in turn made a counter claim against AFP, Getty Images and the Washington Post claiming that they had used his images without permission.

Collection of Newspapers with Daniel Morel’s Iconic Image. Source Petapixel.com

AFP was claiming that they had a right to use the images due to the Twitter ToS (Terms of Service) that granted them the right to use the image as one of Twitters other users.
The court has ruled;

“Based on the evidence presented to the Court the Twitter TOS do not provide AFP with an excuse for its conduct in this case……The Twitter [terms of service] provide that users retain their rights to the content they post — with the exception of the license granted to Twitter and its partners” 

This means that the Twitter ToS does not allow organizations to take images from its site to be used royalty free. As a Twitter user you can retweet an image to share it further but not take it and post for your own gain.
Morrel had settled a counter claim with ABC, CNN and CBS in 2010

Jean Francois Leroy
Source La-clau.net

At the time the case was originally brought some people were quite outspoken about Daniel Morel and his actions. People were claiming that, it serves him right for sharing these images and not using proper publishing routes. One of these people was Jean Francious Leroy who said,

“a photographer should never put his images on a social networking site. If you put your image on Twitter or Flickr and find that it’s been stolen by someone else, well… tough.”

For me this story is one of hope and warning. It is important to read your terms of service carefully. You want to share your images and if you are a photojournalist or a photographer and a witness to a major event, then why can’t you publish your work to Twitter? For a person who has no deals news outlets how do I get my images out there? Social media is a great resource then.
I do think some people are looking at the world backwards maybe to protect themselves. The world is now a digitally interconnected place.

I read 90% of my news online and 50% of the time on the go. I write and create posts; at home, on the bus and walking down the street. Social media has made it easier (and harder) to be noticed as a photographer. Photography is more democratised, creating great images at low costs and pushing the medium forward at an ever quickening pace. The new generation of photographers are people, who are able to share their images through social media and then make quick agreements to news outlets by passing the likes of Getty, shakes up the way photography works.

This is the same as the shift from film to digital, and within the revolution people got left behind. This can be compared to high street in England. Companies had a safe position in the market and when the internet and digital products came they didn’t evolve with the products. Three big retailers have entered administration in the last 7days with one of them collapsing all together.
Is the same in store for image libraries, as the Social media is being molded by its users in the way that its services work and are used.

Getty has also made photographers furious with a recent deal with Google. Although the deal seems to have only come to light in the past week it was actually agreed in December last year.
Google docs now named Google drive made available 5000 royalty free images that can be used with documents created in the Google drive.

Google Drive

OK, where is the problem? The problem is that the metadata has been wiped from the files and they contain no copyright information and no link back to the photographer. Contributing photographers on Getty get paid usually an amount per image bought with the value depending on the size and license. Photographers whose work has been bundled in this deal have been paid $12 as a one of payment.

Getty who owns many online image libraries including IStockPhoto also has a deal with Flikr where photographers can have their images added to Getty and sold in return for a fee.

This certainly seems to be a strange deal considering there are around 425 million users of Gmail, with the possibility to have Google drive. With $12 an image sliced across the total number of possible users would make each image sold for around 1 cent per user.

Maybe we need to find a new direction to sell our images either for stock or to the media. Both these stories show that photographers need to keep an eye on the ever changing digital world of photography and look beyond the image towards the constantly shifting landscape of social media and image libraries.

Added 19/01/13 13.00 ECT

It appears to have come to light that it was Google who stripped the images of the metadata and copyright. This has obviously infuriated many photographers and has been the main area of conflict . On the IStock forum Getty has said “…not ideal from some perspectives…” and they are  “refining the implementation of the deal”. It has also come to light that the $12 dollars paid to contributes was only for the initial images in the package. Images have later been added with a $6 payment to the photographer.

It is interesting that Getty has said they want to redefine the deal but with so much attention being drawn to this topic why has no one as yet come out with a statement are they oblivious to the anger of their contributors and users. I would hope to hear something soon from either Getty or Google.

You can follow me on twitter @aperture64

If you have any comments about this or have something to add join the conversation below using the comment box.


10 thoughts on “Judge rules on infringement, while Getty hands over images to Google

  1. Stripping metadata from an image is exactly the same as stealing my car, re-spraying it, changing number plates and stripping the vin number. Car thieves who do this and who get caught get punished. Those who strip metadata from my images get away with it.
    Why? What’s the difference?

    • I think you analogy is a good one. In this case the reason they can get away with it is that they then sold your car for you for a fraction of the price.

      My biggest problem is not the deal. I think the deal makes good business sense but the fact that the remuneration to the contributor is less than it should and also that they have taken away all credit to the photographer.
      If they had kept the metadata in my opinion, it would have made more business sense. A Google drive user may not find an image they want, they then may look at images they like see who the photographer is, then go to Getty and buy a license for a different image direct from them.

      The fact that they kept this deal quite with no PR fan fair makes me wonder if they knew this was not going to be popular and hoped for the best.

      Thanks for your comment. Do you have any further opinions on this topic? I would really like to hear them.

  2. Thanks for this. I think you’ve missed out on the main point of the Google/Getty/Flickr deal, though, which is that once available in Google Drive, the image can be downloaded FOR FREE by any Drive user. And that’s not just the 425 million Gmail users – it’s ANYBODY. I don’t use Gmail, but nevertheless I had no problem creating a document in Drive and accessing the stock photo collection.

    This is not the same as Getty licensing a royalty free image to a single user to use without subsequent royalty payments. This is licensing to potentially millions of users, with, as you note, no attribution either.

    Disclosure – I am a Getty/Flickr artistic contributor, so obviously there’s potential for my opinion to be biased.

    • Richard maybe you are right that i have missed that step in the argument. I was always under the assumptions that you needed to be a Google user (have a gmail account) to access Google drive as that was how it worked when i was forced to use Google docs (the previous incarnation of Google drive) on a project. With your information, I agree that more people being able to have royalty free images with no metadata is a serious problem and that the complete lack of thought on both Gettys and Googles part about how this will look and really affect their contributors.

      The Getty Flikr deal i approved of when it was launched, as it allowed people who may not have thought they could get their images sold in such a way, to begin a career in stock photography. With the added Google element it does seem for the photographer a bad deal.

      I am surprised as it seems at present, it is only photography sites and blogs that are talking about this and it has not hit the main stream yet after so long (in internet time). When Instagram changed its terms of service, it was nearly instantaneous.

      Is the digital image perceived as being so cheap, has the photographic stock image market become over saturated? These are further questions separate to the Google/Getty case but has its place in the discussion at the same time I think.

      Do you have any opinion on it? if you do let me know

      Thanks for the comment and bringing more light to my post.

      • I hadn’t even thought about this as compared with Instagram… that’s a really interesting point. The Instagram thing blew up, whereas the Google/Flickr thing, as you pointed out, has had a lot less public uptake.

        Maybe it’s because, so far, it’s “just” a few thousand photographs involved (so far), whereas Instagram was millions. I’m sure there’s an interesting study that could be done.

        Sean Locke has also written a nice overview article that complements yours well – I hope you don’t mind me pointing your readers over to it as well:

      • Richard I have nor problem with linking to the Sean Locke article, I feel the more information people have the better users contributors and customers of Getty and Google can can understand photographers frustration.

        Instagram did involve changes that would have effected millions of users. On the other hand the actions taken in the Google Getty deal are much worse. The selling of images below market price and then the stripping of metadata and removing copyright information. I do think there could be an interesting study done as well.

        Thank you for furthering the discussion.

  3. My theory is that Jonathan Klein is out to destroy Microstock, but in the end he’s just shooting his own company in the foot. Stupid, IMHO. And the way he and his employees treat their contributors is disgusting.

    • I agree that the way that Getty has handled this situation does not look good. Also the way that peoples images have been treated and in turn the way contributors have been treated is not right.
      I feel for those who signed up as a contributor and are now on the sticky end of the stick.

      I would say that as a marketing strategy, it was sound. If you can give something small for free then the customer may come and buy big.
      In this case they allowed the possibility for people to use and preview photos in their work for free. There would come a time when these images wouldn’t be enough. Getty now have the door open for customers to come directly to Getty and its subsidiaries and buy directly from them.
      This has back fired since Google striped the Metadata because perhaps they don’t want people to see that the images are not directly from them.

      Has Jonathan Klein shot himself in the foot? Maybe.
      I think we need to wait it out. People have been saying they will leave Gettys image libraries but i wonder how much this will effect the companies. Sure people will leave, but in a highly competitive world like stock photography, people leave and there are more waiting to take their place. As one commenter on another blog said “Yay less images to compete with”. If those who do leave set up their own library they will be a small fish in an overcrowded living room fishbowl.

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