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Google Redesigns Image Search, Raises Copyright and Hosting Concerns 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-such-thing-as-the-common-good dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has recently announced changes to its image search. The search provides larger views of the images with direct links to the full-sized source image. Although this new layout is being praised by users for its intuitiveness, it has raised concerns amongst image copyright holders and webmasters. Large images can now easily be seen and downloaded directly from the Google image search results without sending visitors to the hosting website. Webmasters have expressed concerns about a decrease in traffic and an increase in bandwidth usage since this change was rolled out. Some have set up a petition requesting Google remove the direct links to the images."
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Google Redesigns Image Search, Raises Copyright and Hosting Concerns

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  • Webmasters have expressed concerns about . . . . . an increase in bandwidth usage

    Google gets the image from the originating website, or I go there and get it myself. Either way, somebody (me or Google) has to go to the website to get the image. How does this cause increased bandwidth usage?

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      In fact, it causes reduced bandwidth usage because you don't have to download some stupid ad-filled (and possibly malware-infested) web page that you don't want to see, the way the old image search did.

      If they don't like it, block any requests with a Google referrer string.

      • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

        by icebike (68054) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @07:48PM (#42803245)

        In fact, it causes reduced bandwidth usage because you don't have to download some stupid ad-filled (and possibly malware-infested) web page that you don't want to see, the way the old image search did.

        If they don't like it, block any requests with a Google referrer string.

        This has been answered in the branch above. You can easily exceed your hosted bandwidth quota (with zero ad-generated revenue) by having a high-rez photo from your site pop up in a google image search, especially in a situation where something you have on file becames the topic of a high number of searches.
        Even if you don't serve that photo normally on your web pages, but simply provide a button or thumbnail to click for the small percentage of viewers that want to see the high-res.

        Most visitors don't click the high-rez button or thumbnail. The few that do, don't matter. Until Google indexes it, then all bets are off.

        Some (failed) web designers only put the high-rez image in, then shrink it into a box via the html IMG tag. (Then they wonder why people complain that their web loads slowly). These guys would see very little difference in this case, unless of course Google sees a surge of searches that just happen to find your Nattily Portman collection.

        • If you don't want Google or anyone else to hotlink your images, it's fairly easy to set up hotlink protection.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I'd go further than this, honestly, I'm sick of people whining about this sort of thing.

            The internet was created for one purpose - information sharing, if you don't want your information shared then get it off the web, otherwise don't cry when it is shared.

            Yes that may mean there's a cost to you, in terms of hosting, but that's part of what the web spirit always was - that people share information for free at their time and expense, or as part of their employment (i.e. academics sharing data).

            I'm sick of th

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          This has been answered in the branch above. You can easily exceed your hosted bandwidth quota (with zero ad-generated revenue) by having a high-rez photo from your site pop up in a google image search, especially in a situation where something you have on file becames the topic of a high number of searches.

          And that was answered in my comment above. If you don't want people using image search, block them.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Because google goes directly to the full sized image, not the thumbnail on the web page. Grabbing the image directly creates no impressions, so the bandwidth burned per impression shoots up.

  • It looks and works great! Now they just need to fix the SafeSearch bug [slashdot.org] so I don't have to use Bing Images instead (which, as Microsoft as it is, even gives explicit suggestions when its safe setting is off).

    • by icebike (68054)

      Well at least it now works on Android. The prior version was just about impossible to use on Android.

  • by stevenh2 (1853442) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @07:30PM (#42803083)
    Some websites use a annoying script that redirects people when they click a image.
    • by icebike (68054)

      Yeah, they want you to go their payment page and sign up for unlimited access.

    • by fyngyrz (762201) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @08:00PM (#42803343) Homepage Journal

      If you're running a website with Apache, you can configure Apache to look at the HTTP_REFERER header and see where the web surfer was when they made the request for the image. If they weren't on your website, (or if they don't provide the header, an act to be widely discouraged), just re-direct them to your home page instead of serving the image.

      I would think that other web servers could do the same thing, one way or another.

      For most people, it costs money -- perhaps not a huge amount, but still, real money -- to put up a website and serve content to the world. The expectation, if not agreement, is that you'll look at the site's content on the site.

      The webmaster's position is no more hostile than that of the deep miner: There are expectations, but no promises.

      Google's search goes far beyond fair use, as far as I'm concerned.

      • Example [google.com] (maybe slightly nsfw, could probably get away with it)
      • If they weren't on your website, (or if they don't provide the header, an act to be widely discouraged)

        Excuse me?

        No, actually, it's not an act to be "widely discouraged". Why? Because I don't trust you. Shit, I run several large sites and I wouldn't want my users to trust me with that sort of thing. Ok, I can at least see a case for providing it for intra-site requests, but it's absolutely a bad thing from a privacy standpoint to tell every site where you were previously.

        Plus, you know, what with Google serving their results over HTTPS, there's not going to be a ref. header for the subsequent request to

        • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @04:57AM (#42806287) Homepage Journal

          Not a problem. No header, no pages, and off you go to somewhere else. You don't trust me -- then I don't trust you.

          • by fyngyrz (762201)

            Although, I tell you what: You get HTTP_REFERER augmented or replaced with a YES-NO flag that tells me if the browser is making a request from within my site or without, and I'd stop requiring HTTP_REFERER entirely.

            Or, have the browsers submit a blank HTTP_REFERER for anywhere but where you are. So if you hit me from elsewhere.com, I get a blank, but if you hit me from mysite.com, I get "mysite.com."

            See, I don't care where you've been at all. What I care about is where you are.

    • Agreed, but I think this will only make the problem worse, as increased use of referrer checking will redirect users from Google Images to some cheesy splash-page that serves nothing but ads.

      I liked the "original context" feature with the source page displayed in a frame. I guess the change was inevitable though, it seemed like more and more asshat webmasters were using those damn "break out of frames" scripts, derailing the image search. Half the time the page was some poorly-optimized blog, so the image I

    • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex&project-retrograde,com> on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @07:48PM (#42803247) Homepage

      So, your answer is that because google has decided it has the right to redistribute copyrighted images in full resolution in most cases, that everyone else on the web should go to Google and opt out of their caching system? Site owners are in coorperation with google, we like google when they don't do fucked up illegal things... We see thumbnails as "fair use", maybe. We don't mind much as long as the users end up on our site to see the image. Google understands advert revenue funded websites... They are one. So, it's really hard to understand users who want free stuff saying that we have to change our business practices, and maybe not even give them free stuff (or make it harder to find free stuff) simply because a bigger free stuff provider decides they can get away with infringing copyrights of everyone.

      Your solution is not a solution. A real solution will be to address the issues. Hell, maybe while google is processing the images to reduce their resolution and run heuristic matching algorithms for their other-sizes and search terms feature, they can water-mark them with the domain name of the site they downloaded the image from.

      Or, let's simply turn your moronic suggestion on it's ear. Why don't we all just say: Hey Google, If you want the feature to work that way, you needed to GET PERMISSION FROM EVERYONE BEFORE INFRINGING THEIR COPYRIGHTS. Fuck you and your opt-out "let's piss off everyone, then apologize until we get our way", Facebook feature roll-out model.

      • by LocalH (28506)

        google has decided it has the right to redistribute copyrighted images in full resolution

        They've done no such thing. They distribute a smaller thumbnail, and link directly to the original.

        • by Blakey Rat (99501)

          In a lot of cases you don't have permission to post "the original" without a corresponding copyright notice on the page. In that case, linking directly to the image without displaying the copyright notice is a copyright violation on Google's part. Even most Creative Common licenses have that particular term.

          Google's doing this because they know they can get away with it. But until copyright reform is enacted, however, they're violating the copyright of thousands of artists at this very moment.

          That's not rig

          • by xenobyte (446878)

            In a lot of cases you don't have permission to post "the original" without a corresponding copyright notice on the page. In that case, linking directly to the image without displaying the copyright notice is a copyright violation on Google's part. Even most Creative Common licenses have that particular term.

            Isn't the copyright notice also listed in the image's metadata, which is still available if you save Google's copy of the image?

            If yes, there's no violation. It's not a legal impairment that you require a tool to read it; fine print on contracts have been equally binding for centuries and this is no different.

            Besides, fair use of an image has always been legal, and online re-use of online images have been ruled fair use many times. As long as you don't claim ownership, your own copyright or similar, or use

        • google has decided it has the right to redistribute copyrighted images in full resolution

          They've done no such thing. They distribute a smaller thumbnail, and link directly to the original.

          Oh hell, I have a little Karma to burn...

          I want Google to index my website to so that it is discoverable but I also want the search results to contain just enough data to induce people to visit my site looking for more. I suppose that as the site owner I could just block Google completely from indexing my site as other people here have suggested. That might work if Google was just one of 20 search engines and had, say, a 12% market share. Unfortunately Google has a hugely dominant 90% market share while Goo

          • by Shagg (99693)

            1) You want your content publicly accessible in order to increase your exposure.
            2) You want to control who has access to your content (only those that visit your site and I assume view your ads).

            Please pick one, you can't have both.

      • by msheekhah (903443) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @08:25PM (#42803559)
        Google is acting on feedback from ITS customers. You are not its customers. If you want to protect your context, then do a little research and take care of it. It's not difficult. The information is freely available on the internet how to block hotlinking. And think of the logistics, google will never ask site owners what they want. There are too many of you and not enough of them. That's why you have the option to keep Google off your site. Use it.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          That's not what the sites want. They like the older system where their site was displayed along side the image, so they at least get some exposure. They want people to find images on their sites and visit them, or at least see their logo and advertising. Google took away the site preview feature though now you just get a black page with the imagine in the middle and a link.

      • This is competition 101 - adapt your site to the new environment or it will die.

        The solution is a simple technical one that was designed for this exact purpose, ie: don't serve the images unless the referrer is your own site. The only problem here is your unwillingness to modify YOUR site to meet YOUR requirements.
      • Hey Google, If you want the feature to work that way, you needed to GET PERMISSION FROM EVERYONE BEFORE INFRINGING THEIR COPYRIGHTS. Fuck you and your opt-out "let's piss off everyone, then apologize until we get our way", Facebook feature roll-out model.

        This was tried before. It just wasn't practical at all. If search engines had waited until they got permission from everyone before they could index everyone's public content, most public government sites, most public newspaper sites, most public personal web sites, etc. would have been excluded by default.

        The advantage and the problem with the http protocol is that it's copy-agnostic. And if you really want to control the dissemination of your content, you better put it behind a wall of some kind. Don't po

      • by PhxBlue (562201)

        So, your answer is that because google has decided it has the right to redistribute copyrighted images in full resolution in most cases, that everyone else on the web should go to Google and opt out of their caching system?

        As about 20 other people have pointed out, that's not really what Google's doing. The full-resolution images are hotlinked from Google image search. Ironically, it would be easier on site owners if Google were directly lifting the high-resolution images, but ... copyright.

        Why don't we all just say: Hey Google, If you want the feature to work that way, you needed to GET PERMISSION FROM EVERYONE BEFORE INFRINGING THEIR COPYRIGHTS.

        I think this is maybe a good place to ask, why did you publish the content in the first place?

  • by mk1004 (2488060) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @07:45PM (#42803225)

    IIRC, jpeg images allow header data that includes copyright info. If you don't care about use of the image, leave it blank. If you do, insert the copyright info. Google's bot can look for copyright data and if it finds it, it can link to the original html page. Otherwise, it can give a link for a direct download.

    I think there was something on /. awhile back that talked about some system for the owner to indicate how an image could be used, e.g. commercial, non-commercial, free and so on. Couldn't find it on a quick search, but that might be another option to tell Google how to handle an image.

  • Referer Header! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheNinjaroach (878876) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @07:46PM (#42803231)
    If webmasters don't want people "stealing" photos without viewing directly on their website, they are more than welcome to instruct their web servers to not display images to freeloaders. Look at the referer header, if the request didn't originate from your site, then don't serve it.
  • # cd <htdocs root>
    # cat - > robots.txt
    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /
    <crtl-D>
    #

    Problem solved!
    • by fatphil (181876)
      Not just that, which is the brute force method, google themsleves are happy to tell you exactly how to block just images just for them (so your text content will still be scanned, and web searches will find you).

      This story is just another "wah-wah-wah I'm stupid" rant. It's not even a rant, it's just a jibber.
    • User-agent: Googlebot-Image
      Disallow: /hires_images/

  • As a user, I like the convenience but the last thing I want is for all kinds of legal disputes and possible regulations as chances are they'll overreach in banning what Google and other search engines are allowed to do, and we'll end up with less than we had before Google pushed it like this. "Don't be evil", and at least allow sites to opt out.

    • by tbird81 (946205)

      You can opt out.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        Yes, and the folks on slashdot are really big on opt-out instead of opt-in...

        ..oh wait.. no they fucking arent. The folks on slashdot fucking hate opt-out, and rightly fucking so.
        • Yes, and the folks on slashdot are really big on opt-out instead of opt-in... ..oh wait.. no they fucking arent. The folks on slashdot fucking hate opt-out, and rightly fucking so.

          Posting your content on a publicly accessible URL IS opt-in.

      • by Cloud K (125581)

        .... oh.

        In that case I don't understand what the fuss is. I guess nowadays we just assume that people are incapable of turning off things that they don't like (same goes for things like all the fuss about Ubuntu's Amazon search, which you can just uh... turn off.)

  • Can google show a link with summary to a news article? Can they just show the entire article?
    Can google show a link with summary to an image (i.e. thumbnail)? Can they just show the entire image?

    I cannot imagine any reasonable person would differentiate the two situations. The content the Google user is actually looking for is the high-res image itself (my assumption based on my own personal decision process that leads me to visit images.google.com). As soon as you start serving up the full content, yo

  • I can see both sides (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes (730264) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @08:50PM (#42803789)

    On one hand, I think the site owners deserve the traffic. On the other hand, it seems like at least a quarter of the pages end up being dead when I click on them, or redirect to sites attempting to install malware on old versions of Firefox, or seemingly have nothing whatsoever to do with the image that's supposedly there.

    A compromise might be to allow users to open the referring page in context immediately, open the cached page (with live content) after a 2-second delay, and allow users to grab the full-sized image directly from Google's cache after a 10-second CAPTCHA-guarded delay. Then, users would have every incentive to try viewing the page in context, falling back to the cached page if the original page ends up being down/borked/whatever, and being able to grab the cached image if all else fails.

    Going a step further, Google could come up with some free digital watermarking scheme that allows a 48-bit (give or take) payload to be encoded into the image at a user-selected strength (allowing him to balance robustness, file size, and visibility... pick any two of the three).

    The upper few bits (let's say, 4) would indicate the version. Initially, it would be 0001.

    The next 40(give or take) bits would be globally-unique, and allow somebody who knows the value to obtain meta info about you in a sensible manner. If they're all 0, it means you're using a generic permissions watermark that doesn't identify ownership, but simply restricts use.

    The lower 4 bits specify explicit restrictions

    * do not contextually-index
    * do not cache full-sized image
    * do not perform face recognition of any kind
    * do not index for similarity to other images

    A value of "0000" would allow search engines to index the image, unless you restricted them in some industry-standard way via metadata referenced to your unique id. For the generic value with all 0s, 0000 means "go ahead and index this".

    A value of "1111" would indicate that the image, when encoded with a 4-bit watermark, should not be indexed in any way, shape, or form, regardless of future extensions to the standard that might define additional permissions, and regardless of what any indirectly-referenced meta-info might or might not say. Let's call this the "Stop Facebook from Permissions Creep in a GPLv3-like manner" anti-permission.

  • by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Tuesday February 05, 2013 @08:56PM (#42803833) Homepage Journal

    I think that if I was a photographer, I would be OK with Google caching full quality images as long as they put their own annoying watermark all over it with the URL where the image came from clearly visible.

    • by discord5 (798235)

      I think that if I was a photographer, I would be OK with Google caching full quality images as long as they put their own annoying watermark all over it with the URL where the image came from clearly visible.

      I think if you were a photographer looking to have such a feature you should just hire a reasonably competent webdeveloper for a day and have them setup such a thing for you. Can't be more than 20 lines of python/perl/php code really.

  • Google hosting and delivering the large image ... bad. Googling showing where the website makes the image available to everyone ... good. Webmasters: don't like it? Then don't deliver it. That's what the referrer is for.

  • if these webmaster really believe that most people don't know about 'right click' & "save image as...", then they are living in lala-land.
  • GIS worked just fine before they decided to "improve" it. Now I cannot turn "Safe search" off, and now I cannot quickly search for a particular image size.

    If I'm really fast, I can get to the links at the (ever moving away) bottom of the page and find my way back to the old GIS, but only if I'm fast enough.

    Please, Google, put these coders on a project that NEEDS improvement, and give us a useable GIS back. Thank you.

    • Do not worry about safe search it is broken too. I posted to Google a complaint that if you mispell the word COLD as COOLD it brings up X rated Amine even with SaveSearch ON.

      Though I did find that Google does not page to enter complaints of there products. Just others using their products. (google+, Blogger,...)

  • As someone who uses Google Image Search quite a bit, I have this to say:

    Please.

    Someone look at my images, either at my site [botaday.com] or at Google [google.com]

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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