Getty Images: Google Promotes Piracy

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Want to confront Google over anti-competitive behavior? Get in line.

Getty Images today became the latest to register a complaint with the European Commission about Google, accusing the Web giant of encouraging piracy.

According to the Seattle-based stock photo agency, Google asserts its search dominance by directly providing high-resolution copyrighted material, and discouraging folks from viewing images at their source. Google's monopoly over site traffic, engagement data, and advertising spending, Getty said, impacts the licensing business and the global content creators it represents. It also promotes piracy, and turns users into "accidental pirates."

"Getty Images represents over 200,000 photojournalists, content creators, and artists around the world who rely on us to protect their ability to be compensated for their work," General Counsel Yoko Miyashita said in a statement.

"By standing in the way of a fair marketplace for images, Google is threatening innovation, and jeopardizing artists' ability to fund the creation of important future works," she continued. "Artists need to earn a living in order to sustain creativity and licensing is paramount to this; however, this cannot happen if Google is siphoning traffic and creating an environment where it can claim the profits from individuals' creations as its own."

The complaint focuses on changes to Google Images made in 2013, when the company replaced low-resolution thumbnails with high-res, large-format content.

The change "immediately diverted traffic away from Getty Images" and the websites of its customers, making it harder for creators to earn money via licensing and advertising.

"It is key that these issues with Google are addressed and that the dominant search engine in Europe leads users to legitimate sources for imagery, rather than creating an environment that benefits Google alone," Miyashita said.

Today's filing comes one week after the European Commission formally filed charges against Google for anti-competitive behavior related to its Android operating system.

This issue is not a new one; Google has battled with copyright holders for years over whether its search engine promotes piracy. Several years ago, Google started demoting sites with multiple copyright removal notices, and in 2014, it started testing an ad and search-result formats to help users find legitimate sources of media. But fighting copyrighted material can a game of whack-a-mole on the Web.

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