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Microsoft's Bing Image tool draws a copyright infringement suit

Getty Images claims the Bing Image Widget is stealing its images.

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Credit: bfishadow

Microsoft's Bing Image Widget is designed to give publishers the ability to publish images from the Bing search engine on their web page, but Getty Images is accusing Microsoft of "massive infringement" and is suing over it.

Microsoft released Bing Image Widget on August 22. It's designed to create a spot on a webpage where images are displayed that are pulled from the Bing search engine. You can create slideshows or galleries from the images, as well as single images.

However, Getty Images, the largest provider of images in the world, said that the product gives sites access to the all of the billions of images that can be found online, regardless of the photos’ copyright prote.

"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 lawsuit said.

Reuters says Getty is asking a judge in U.S. District Court to block the widget immediately and award an unspecified amount of damages. The company claims actual injury to Getty is "incalculable." The suit suggests that the company has more than 80 million unique images in its library.

"Getty has its own image embedding tool that is only available for non-commercial websites and includes photographer attribution," John Lapham, general counsel for the company, told Reuters.

When asked for comment, a Microsoft spokesperson sent me the following: "As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this area are important. We’ll take a close look at Getty’s concerns."

I have to say, this looks rather sloppy. They meant well, but Microsoft should have had a more controlled pool of images rather than pulling anything it can find from its web crawlers. Part of me also feels Getty was pretty quick to pull the trigger on the lawsuit, but if they feel their IP is being stolen every day this product is in use, then they had to act fast.

If I was a betting man, I'd figure on a nice settlement -- Microsoft digs into its piggy bank, and Getty images become legal for search by the widget, all in the next few weeks or months.

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