Google has removed the "View Image" button from its image search in an attempt to protect licensed material from being stolen. Google announced today on Twitter that they will be removing the "View Image" button that when clicked, opens a new browser tab and displays an image independent of its original website. The decision comes in tandem with an announcement last week that a deal was struck with Getty to allow Google to use Getty Images in Google searches, and to improve the display of copyright information alongside their images.
Google has drawn ire from publishers and photographers for some time now, and they are finally responding to those criticisms by making it more difficult for images to be copied or saved. Publishers can also be thankful that now the best way to view a full sized image will be to click the "Visit" button that takes the user to the website where the image originally appeared, enabling the website to gather advertising revenue and to properly display licensing information about the image. On top of removing the "View Image" button, Google is also doing away with the button that enables users to reverse image search by clicking "search by image." Some users will use this feature to try to find a non-watermarked version of a watermarked image to share or use. These changes are an attempt by Google to dissuade unlicensed use of copyrighted images, and should certainly ease tensions between Getty and Google.
It is still possible for someone to save the image or reverse search an image, though additional steps do have to be taken that are less obvious and more time consuming. Since a Google user can still right click on the image and click "open image in tab," to view the full sized image independent of its original site, and since any image can be clicked and dragged to the search bar at the top of a browser to reverse search the web, the effect of the new changes are more of a deterrent than an actual concrete way to block the illegitimate use of images. Publishers will relish in these decisions, but users may find the changes in features to be frustrating, as many found the process to be the simplest method to save and share images that they find online.