Microsoft, Getty Settle Bing Image Widget Suit and Form Partnership

After bringing the copyright infringement case to a close, Microsoft and Getty Images enter into a technology-sharing agreement.

Microsoft Bing and Getty Images

Getty Images' lawsuit against Microsoft's short-lived Bing Image Widget was settled this week, ending a case that highlighted the sometimes-contentious intersection between automated content redistribution and copyright.

Released last summer as a beta, the Bing Image Widget allowed webmasters to spruce up their sites with snippets of code that embedded digital images and photos generated by relevant search results. As described in Getty's Sept. 4 court filing in New York, the widget allowed "Website publishers to embed a panel on their Websites that will display digital images supplied by [Microsoft] through its proprietary Bing Image Search engine, based on search queries of the Website publisher's choosing."

Getty Images had accused the Redmond, Wash.-based IT giant of wholesale Web harvesting to build its image index and infringing on Getty copyrights.

"Rather than draw from a licensed collection of images, [Microsoft] gathers these images by crawling as much of the Internet as it can, copying and indexing every image it finds, without regard to the copyright status of the images and without permission from copyright owners like [Getty Images]," stated the complaint. Getty Images characterized itself as "one of the world's largest providers of commercial visual content and the leading provider of commercial images online, representing more than 80 million unique works of digital imagery."

Microsoft quickly pulled the widget after Getty Images filed its suit. And now, seven months later, the companies have settled the case, according to a report in The Seattle Times. The terms of the deal, which was made official on April 6 when lawyers for both companies filed in favor of dropping the suit, were not disclosed.

A day later, Seattle-based Getty Images said that it had struck up an agreement that will bring the company's sprawling image portfolio to Bing and Cortana, among other Microsoft offerings. "In the coming years, the two companies' technology teams will partner to provide real-time access to Getty Images imagery and associated metadata to enhance the Microsoft user experience," stated the company in a brief April 7 announcement.

"With our new partnership, Microsoft will use Getty Images' latest API innovations and our award-winning visual content to take search experiences to a new level," Craig Peters, senior vice president of business development for Getty Images, said in a statement. "Our technology teams will work together to create beautiful, engaging applications and services for Microsoft users with licensed content and attribution for photographers and other content creators."

Getty Images, meanwhile, has been working on app experiences of its own.

Two weeks after first filing the lawsuit, Getty Images released Stream for Apple iOS and OS X on Sept. 19, allowing consumers to browse its library and stream slide shows to their Apple TVs using AirPlay. The app features its own sharing features that enable users to post images on Facebook and Twitter or embed them into a blog or Web page.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...