Google Images changes make it better for image creators, worse for everyone else


Google has made a significant change to its Google Images search engine, in a bid to prevent people from downloading and copying copyrighted images.

When you now search for an image, you won’t see the ‘View image’ button. This used to allow people to view just the image on its own, and allow them to download the image without visiting the site.

This caused concern from the people who created and published those images, as not only were their images viewed and downloaded without people having to visit the site, potentially robbing them of an audience, but it also meant the images were viewed out of context, and without any information on usage rights or who to credit if you re-use the image.

Getting those clicks

As the Google search team said on Twitter, while the View Image button is gone, the ‘Visit’ button remains, hopefully encouraging people to visit the website before downloading the image.

However, you can still right-click the image and select ‘Open image in new tab’ and download it that way. Still, it’s hoped that this move will make people more aware of where their images come from.

As the Google search team explains, “Having a single button that takes people to actionable information about the image is good for users, web publishers and copyright holders”, while also revealing that these changes have come about in part due to a settlement earlier this week with Getty Images. 

Getty Images filed a competition law complaint against Google with the European Commission in 2016, which accused Google of “creating captivating galleries of high-resolution, copyrighted content. Because image consumption is immediate, once an image is displayed in high-resolution, large format, there is little impetus to view the image on the original source site.”

Google and Getty Images have now embarked on a multiyear global licencing partnership to solve this issue. While this change will be welcomed by many image creators, it may prove frustrating for day-to-day users who are searching for images for legitimate purposes.

The ‘Search by image’ button has also been removed, making it harder to search for similar images, however, reverse image search still works.