Getty Images Picks a Bone With Microsoft

     MANHATTAN (CN) - A feature Microsoft introduced two weeks ago on its Bing Image Search engine blatantly rips off copyrighted photos and images, causing "immense and irreparable" damage to copyright holders, Getty Images claimed Thursday in a federal lawsuit.
     Getty Images holds copyright to more than 80 million images, including some of the most famous shots in the world. It licenses them for reproduction.
     It claims that on Aug. 22 Microsoft released a new service called Bing Image Widget, which "allows website publishers to embed a panel on their websites that will display digital images supplied by defendant through its proprietary 'Bing Image Search' search engine, based on search queries of the website publisher's choosing. The resulting display, defendant tells website publishers, 'enhances your website ... and provides your users with beautiful, configurable image galleries and slideshows."
     The complaint continues: " What defendant fails to mention, however, is that these 'beautiful, configurable image galleries and slideshows' typically consist of copyrighted images, including images whose copyrights are owned or controlled by plaintiff. Rather than draw from a licensed collection of images, defendant gathers these images by crawling as much of the Internet as it can, copying and indexing every image it finds, without regard to the copyright status of the images and without permission from copyright owners like plaintiff. The supply of images for the Bing Image Widget is therefore in the billions - essentially, the entire universe of images that defendant can find on the Internet - including plaintiff's highly valuable copyrighted works. 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."
     Getty claims Microsoft is doing "immense and irreparable" injury to it, as Getty's income is "critically dependent" on its licensing of artwork.
     "By freely providing these images to websites after having copied them from other websites (without any permission to do so), defendant has all but eliminated the incentive of website publishers to seek proper licenses from plaintiff for the right to display its images on their websites. Given the nature and scale of defendant's conduct, the actual injury to plaintiff is incalculable and cannot be remedied by monetary damages alone." (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Getty Images seeks an injunction and actual and statutory damages.
     It is represented by Kenneth Doroshow with Jenner & Block.