(Adds comments from Getty Images general counsel)
By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Sept 4 A new Microsoft Corp
product that allows website publishers to embed digital
photographs on their sites is a "massive infringement" of
copyrighted images, Getty Images Inc claimed in a
lawsuit filed in federal court in New York on Thursday.
The "Bing Image Widget," released on Aug. 22, gives
publishers the ability to create a panel on their websites that
displays digital images supplied by Microsoft's Bing search
engine, according to the lawsuit.
Rather than draw from a pool of licensed images, the lawsuit
claimed, the product grants access to the billions of images
that can be found online, without regard to whether the photos
"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
Getty, which produces and distributes photos, video, music
and multi-media products, is asking a judge in U.S. District
Court to block the widget immediately and award an unspecified
amount of damages. The actual injury to Getty is "incalculable,"
according to the lawsuit.
In a statement, a Microsoft spokeswoman said the company
would consider whether Getty's claims had merit.
"As a copyright owner ourselves we think the laws in this
area are important," the spokeswoman said in an email. "We'll
take a close look at Getty's concerns."
John Lapham, general counsel for Getty, said his company has
been engaged in discussions with Microsoft for more than a year
about what he called the "erosion" of copyright protection for
The widget, he said, goes well beyond a search tool by
helping websites embed copyrighted images for commercial use.
Getty's own embedding tool, by contrast, is only available for
non-commercial websites and includes photographer attribution,
"Now you have someone else's picture in full, beautiful
display on your website, having never paid for it and with no
attribution to the photographer at all," he said.
The widget is already in use by websites around the world,
the lawsuit said. Getty owns or represents more than 80 million
unique digital images, according to the lawsuit.
The case is Getty Images Inc v. Microsoft Corp, U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Leslie Adler and Diane