Getty Images made news in the copyright world this week by filing a complaint against Microsoft Corporation in the Southern District of New York for "infringing and facilitating the massive infringement of [its] copyrights" through its release of the new Bing Image Widget service. To review the full complaint, click here.
The case is significant because Getty Images, one of the premier content companies in the nation, has directly challenged Microsoft, which runs one of a handful of web browser companies, over tools that it is making available to web developers to embed images in websites. In taking on one of the key players in the technology world, Getty Images obviously stands not only to potentially enjoin Microsoft from continuing to make this technology available but also to potentially create precedent that it no doubt hopes will discourage the continued development and adoption of similar digital technologies.
As anyone who works in the digital media and content industry today knows, embedding and framing third party content has increasingly become a very widely adopted practice on the Internet, and in many cases the content being embedded and framed has not been procured through any sort of license from the third party--it has simply been "captured" through a developer tool. I definitely have been receiving an increased number of client inquiries regarding various adaptions of this practice and where the lines are on permissible and impermissible uses of these technologies. Evidently, Getty Images is also watching how the industry is evolving and believes that it makes sense from a business standpoint to invest the legal resources into procuring further clarification on where the lines are as well.
While it's too early to predict what will ultimately happen with this case, any precedent that comes out of the case could have an impact on how the digital media industry goes forward. So, it will definitely be a dispute to watch in the coming weeks.