As Chair of BAPLA I get involved in lots of industry discussions and one issue in particular that comes up time and time again is the challenge posed to picture libraries & agencies by the Google Images algorithm. CEPIC have been heavily lobbying on this issue for a number of years now, and recently attended meetings in Berlin and Paris with representatives from Google. Google’s response to those meetings has been to suggest that it’s easier than ever to find a photographer’s work using Google Images, in particular by using the Reverse Image Search.

So as a small bespoke picture library with exclusive rights to license images on our website, I wanted to test this theory from the perspective of an image ‘user’ who wants to find out where to license an image legitimately for commercial use. As a small library we don’t use Google Ads, but we do have a website that has SEO. Plus, when checking other Search Engines the results were the same.

The test is a step-by-step process of using a specific set of keywords we have featured on our website and looking at each link on the “framed” image in Google Images. It shows permitted uses to publishers, but also importantly ‘social media’ and ‘infringed’ uses, which have no connection to the original source or to the picture library but enable others to benefit commercially and therefore equate to lost revenue to us. It demonstrates the lack of control over the use of an image once online. Most crucially only when I searched for our picture library name together with the keywords did the search return both the picture library and the test image.

If we are to foster continued growth in the images sector, we need the likes of Google to listen and help make changes so we can share in the value generated within the online marketplace.

– Isabelle Doran, Picture Library Manager at Loupe Images & BAPLA Chair –

Click here to download a PDF of the test.

Google Images put to the test