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As Shannon Connellan explains on Mashable, Google recently made a subtle change to its image search — but one that may have big repercussions for copyright. The company has now removed the “view image” button from image search, which will make it trickier to save copyrighted images directly. Once a direct link to a high-resolution version of your chosen image, the “view image” button was a concern for photographers, publishers and stock image sites alike, as it allowed people to access a high-res version of the image without visiting the source site.

With Google’s elimination of the tool, you’ll still be able to visit the source of the image with the remaining “visit” button, but it’s this additional step that’s hopefully meant to make people less likely to steal copyrighted material — seeing images in their original context could be a red flag for users.

Google Images Tweet | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

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The Getty Effect

This change was probably at the behest of Getty Images, as it comes in the wake of Google’s new multi-year global licensing partnership with the company, enabling Google to use Getty’s content within its various products and services. Interestingly enough, the partnership was developed after Getty filed a complaint against Google in 2016, accusing the company of anti-competitive practices within Google Images and “distorting search results in favour of its own services” — thus creating less of a need to visit source stock websites likes Getty to download the original image.

“Because image consumption [in Google Images] 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,” Getty’s press statement read.

So What?

What does this mean for you?

My advice has always been to use copyright-free photos and images, provided by a number of websites (Pixabay is my current favorite). Even if it’s not the perfect image, you could avoid a lot of hassle down the road.

Also, be sure to give credit where credit’s due (speaking of which, many thanks to Sebastian White for pointing me to the Mashable post!)

Happy blogging!