Does Google Map’s Use of All Rights Reserved Photos From Flickr Violate Copyright?
It was interesting to read over at Rev Dan Catt’s blog today that Google has now begun including Flickr photos into their Google Maps product. I love Google Maps and use it *heavily,* especially when planning trips to new cities to photograph.
Basically, when you are in Google Street View mode for any part of Google Maps, you are presented with an option to click on “user photos.” Google then presents you with a list of thumbnail sized photos that you can go through one by one and view actual photos on the maps based on their own Picassa photo sharing and now Flickr. As you click on the various photos, it pulls up a high res version of each of the photos, showing you the image.
When I first learned of this feature I thought for sure that it would be limited to Creative Commons Flickr photos. I wasn’t sure how Google could legally take high res photos for CC non-commercial photos or all rights reserved photos and integrate full sized versions of them into their product. But it seems as though this is exactly what they’ve done.
If you look at the screen shot above, it features a photo by Flickr photographer Patrick Boury, if you look at that photo on Flickr, it is licensed as “all rights reserved.” I surfed Google’s Street View around San Francisco today checking out lots of the photos and many (in fact I’d say most) of the Flickr images that Google is presently using are either Creative Commons non-commercial licensed photos or all rights reserved licensed photos.
While I know that in the past Google has used thumbnail images in their Google Image Search product of all rights reserved Flickr photos, I haven’t actually seen them use full scale large versions of all rights reserved photos in other products like this.
Me personally, I have no problem with Google using any of my own geotagged photos this way, but I’m pretty open and willing to share my photos. Especially though with thousands of Flickr users now formally licensing their all rights reserved photos through Getty Images, it makes me wonder if Getty Images would consider this sort of use by Google as infringing on the exclusivity that Flickr users give them over images when licensing them for sale with them.
I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not exactly sure if Google is infringing here or not, but it raises an interesting question about fair use. Google is a for profit company and even displays adverts on the street view pages using Flickr photos.
It should also be noted that Flickr has a way to exclude your photos from being indexed by Google and other search engines in your Flickr preferences. I suppose if someone felt strongly enough about this issue then they might consider hiding their images from search engines and I’d assume that they’d then not be indexed in Google’s Street View product.