About a week ago, Eric Schmidt of Google jumped into a plane to Paris in order to catch Francois Hollande, the French President, himself about to leave for war-torn Mali, for a quick signature photo op. They both happily signed the bottom of a document and departed their own ways. Above both men’s signature is a lengthy text agreeing that search giant Google would disburse $80 million in exchange for the right to post links and snippets of information from the French press in their search pages. Specifically, in their Google News section. Irrelevant to the fact that those link/snippets creates a huge boost of traffic to those said publications, who post their news for free, it was claimed that Google’s behavior was unfair. While the money will not go directly to the publications but rather in a fund that will help create and launch new information oriented applications developed by those publications, it is still a very poorly disguised payment in exchange of links. Besides the fact that this could transform the whole web economy right now, no one pays to post a link on their site- it could rather be uneventful for us, photography people.
? But it is not. Here’s why. Under the same logic, Google should compensate each and every owner of images that they also freely display. Each news story displayed starts with a photograph, most often times not even on the site of the first 5 websites recommended for this story. They should also compensate photography owners for displaying their images , now in large format, in the result of every google image search performed. After all, if that search exists at all, its because photographers have made it possible. Yet, nothing of that $80 million is even remotely going to come close to any image creators. In fact, photographers and their representatives have been excluded from the discussions. The same way photography had been excluded in previous large content conversations, like the one regarding Google books.
The new thumbnail ?
?Unlike news, Google displays the complete photographs, not just the links to them. Furthermore, it has recently change its design to display even larger thumbnails ( can we call them thumbnails anymore ?). There shouldn’t be two measures here. Either links are being paid for, or they are not. In France and in Belgium previously, Google has decided to pay. So why not photography ? It certainly could use the financial help.
?Google has never been a good friend of photography. While using it largely to its own advantage, it has declined any proper conversations regarding the protection and promotion of its creators. Instead, it participate in the creation of millions of orphan works by stripping IPTC information from images and facilitate the elimination of ownership information. ?As of late last week, only one French photography organization, the FFAP has voiced their concerns and has demanded direct talks with Google. Will others join in ? Will Google listen ?