Not happy jan: Google’s image search ‘peace deal’

Google Image Search Changes

Say goodbye to Google's 'View Image' button in image search. Last week Google announced changes to its image search - one of which was the removal of the option to view an image without visiting the host website.

So why is such a small button having such a significant affect on users around the world? It’s largely about convenience and practicality. When you’re searching for a picture, there’s a high chance you want to take it and use it for something. So with the removal of the button, users have to take a few extra steps in order to save an image.

The change is frustrating, sure, but it wasn’t unexpected. It was only a matter of time before this change was implemented – initially appearing as a stipulation in Google’s “settlement” with Getty Images. Wait, what settlement?



The Getty Images Settlement

In 2016, Getty Images filed a complaint against Google to the European Union. They claimed that the company’s image search functionality promoted piracy. Because users of Google Image Search were provided the ability to view high-resolution images directly, there was little motivation to view the image on the original source website.

“Google’s behaviour is adversely affecting not only our contributors, but the lives and livelihoods of artists around the world, present and future”

Yoko Miyashita (Senior Vice President, General Counsel – Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Google and Getty Images announced they had reached a deal – putting an end to a lengthy legal battle between the two companies. As part of that agreement, Google had to make a few changes to its image search.


Google’s Response

The most notable of the changes to Google’s image search was the removal of its “View Image” functionality. This change has since gone live – so users can no longer quickly download original image files while bypassing the host website. This is primarily a move from Google to help protect photographers’ copyrights.



In addition, Google has since removed the “Search by Image” button – however the reverse image search functionality (through the Google Image search bar) still works. Google has also agreed to make the copyright notices on relevant images more “prominent” for users.



The Result

While the latest changes can be celebrated by photographers and other copyright holders, some users aren’t as pleased.

“While it’s good to see Google protecting photographers and driving traffic to websites, it’s still hard not to be a little annoyed by the changes. There are plenty of legitimate and legal uses for copyrighted images.”

Jacob Kastrenakes (Editor, Circuit Breaker – The Verge)

There are some obvious intentions here – connecting users and useful websites, providing proper copyright attribution and even protecting photographers. But Google and other ad-serving platforms are taking a win here too. By driving users through to the websites where images are found, websites have a larger audience – so more advertising impressions. And who do you think benefits from more advertising impressions? Largely, Google.


The Workaround

There’s still a few ways around Google’s removal of the “View Image” functionality. So what’s the easiest way to view an image without visiting the website? For now, simply right click, and you can select “Open Image in New Tab” or “View Image” (depending on your browser). Easy peasy, right?

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