Google has become the biggest image scraper of the Millennium

Close up Chukar in the snow - Taken January 31, 2013

Close up Chukar in the snow – Taken January 31, 2013

You might wonder why I have used this title but since the 25th of January changes have been made to Google Image Search that have infuriated webmasters, photographers, artists and many more.

It used to be that when you did an image search on Google you would see a page full of thumbnails and when you moused over the image it would show the link to where the image was stored on a server, for instance on mine, and if you clicked a thumbnail it would load with the web site in the background. If the viewer wanted to see the full-sized image they would click the X and be on the web site.


The image above is a screen shot I made after searching in Google images for “mia mcpherson onthewingphotography Chukars” and I clicked on the image outlined in red. Then an image pops into a dark screen with some buttons on the side.  Noticed that my site has not loaded in the background like it used to so the viewer could click the image and be on my site.  Now to go to the site one must click the “View Page” button outlined in blue.

If you click image details (outlined in yellow) you would expect to read the EXIF information, for instance; the name of the copyright holder, contact information and camera settings. Not so, not so at all. Instead you go to a page that looks like this: image-details-mia-mcpherson

And if you click on any of the images the cycle is repeated again, you’d go to a page that looks like the one above where I have outlined key features in different colors.

Notice the tiny, almost unnoticeable, “Image may be subject to copyright“. Google fell flat on their faces with that one, there should be a sterner warning stating that “All images are copyrighted at the moment of creation, do not use without contacting the person who created it for permission” in a color that stands out to the viewer. People already think if they swipe an image off of a Google search that it is okay to use it. See my post on and how the owner of that stinking wallpaper site thinks it is okay to steal images.  It IS not okay to steal images from any search engine. Period.

Lets look at the button I outlined in green that says “View Original Image”, if you mouse over that button this is what you will see on your browser window’s status bar:


The changes Google have made since the 25th of January now hot link directly to your full-sized version on your server which increases the load on YOUR band width.  I have unlimited bandwidth but some webmasters do not and this change could end up costing them more money and I don’t believe that Google has the right to do that. Not only that but I have no right-click protections set up on my blog and while I know that won’t stop ALL image theft it does deter some, GOOGLE has by-passed my protections and now offers up a hot-linked full size version of my file so viewers/scrapers/thieves do not even have to go to my site to swipe my images. Google has the right to display small-sized version of my images in searches but they have now taken it a step further and show the full image on a page where anyone can right-click and download my images.

I have routinely sent requests to Google when I find one of my images “hot linked” on a Google Bloggers blog and Google is obligated to take the image down or limit the Blog owners access to their site until it is according to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) so why does Google think that THEY can hot link to our images? I do not believe this “hot linking” to be ethical or legal. They are no better than the image thieves we file DMCA Takedown Notifications on when we find our images being infringed upon. This is from Wikipedia on the DMCA:

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.

Google is circumventing the program I have on my site to limit access to my copyrighted works. They are disseminating our copyrighted works. How is this NOT criminal?

With our images so easy to download we are facing even worse issues with copyright infringement.

Webmasters are furious because of these changes. Look at what has happened to my own stats:

google-dropThis graph represents viewers that have come to my blog view Google referrals, the red dot is shown for the date of January 25th which is when this asinine change Google made was done. I had  86% fewer referrals from January 24th thru January 29th through JUST Google searches. Google is saying this change is good for the webmasters. How can that be? Does Google think we are all that ignorant?

I do not have ads that generate income on my sites but many webmasters do and now they are losing money because people don’t even have to go to your site to view all the “pretty pictures”. Even Google is losing money for the sites that have Google Ad Sense ads on them, how stupid is that?

Google has made a serious mistake, they are looking at class action lawsuits being filed against their company. As a photographer and copyright holder I’d be happy to join any and all of those class action law suits against Google.

The way I see it Google is crapping on our rights as artists, creators and photographers. And I am furious about it.

More information can be found here about these changes:

Google Updates Image Search, Artists to See Changes

An article in the LATimes (I commented, they have not approved my comment at the time I am writing this)

Google’s own Blog Post about this: (Yes, I commented there too) The people that do like the changes seem to be the viewers (and some image thieves) but all of the “publishers” are angry about it. Even the sleazy wallpaper site owners who steal OUR images.

Google’s post about this on G+ Google “Images” change hurting websites and photographers

Is Google’s New Image Search Increasing Or Decreasing Your Traffic? Google updates Image Search with preview panel

Notice that Google has NOT responded to people’s questions about this change.

It is my opinion that Google has crossed the line and that they have become the world’s largest scraper site. They have sunk lower than the nastiest image thieves.

I am checking into ways I can prevent Google from offering my full-sized images up to the image thieves right on Google’s Image Search pages and I am NOT alone. Webmasters, photographers, artists and more are all seriously considering blocking Google’s robots from indexing our images. I am considering activating a WordPress plugin to prevent hot linking for images on my blog. I may have to go back and re-upload much smaller versions of all of my images on this blog and put huge copyright notices on each image.

You bet I am upset. Google has  gone too far and I am simply not willing to take a back seat about this issue.


Additional posts you might enjoy:

About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


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  3. I made this page 2 days ago to show everyone how to block your images on Google and other sites hotlinking your pics.

  4. My .htaccess file now stops my full res images being viewed anywhere on the web apart from my site. Every photo of mine on the search engines now gets a watermark (big black box) in the middle. My traffic and revenue is way down now. Thanks Google.

  5. Mia, I read my way through your Google posts in reverse chronological order. I’ve obviously seen the changes but I had no idea how they were affecting everything from hotlinking to blog traffic. What you’ve revealed here is totally unacceptable! You’ve done amazing research on this issue and I thank you for illuminating this huge problem. I simply can’t wrap my head around an executive decision to implement this. Do they simply believe that artists have no individual or collective power to challenge these violations? The worst part is that most referrals come from Google which further complicates matters, as you say. In some cases, loss of Google placement kills an artist’s income. This is really screwy. I will follow up on all of the links you’ve presented. Thanks again.

    • Ingrid, I wish I knew what idiot decided to approve this change on Google, I’d email them personally. I do know I will be happy to join a class action lawsuit against Google.

      Fortunately for me the purpose of my blog/web site isn’t strictly aimed at selling my images but for those whose sites are based on commerce, I feel their pain.

      What ticks me off the most about this is that Google has bypassed image protection measures I have in place on my blog and by hot linking they are allowing scrapers to more easily steal my content.

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  7. I have the same situation, i have tried many things but google images is still showing my photos, i have activated all possible ways to prevent hotlinking but it’s not working as i wanted to be, i am blocking google image bot and i will keep looking for away to stop this.

    Google’s New Image Search is Killing My Sites:

    • Thanks for sharing your link to your thoughts about Google’s changes to its Image Search. At this point with so little traffic coming from Google I am considering blocking them entirely from my sites. I guess if every photographer, artist and designer did that Google’s image search would be crappy and people will go to other search engines and Google would lose advertising revenue.

  8. Pingback: Google Image Search Issues.

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  10. I noticed the change a few days ago, and I thought it was annoying how it wouldn’t take you to the actual page. Now I see how it has an impact on how websites are losing traffic from Google. It’s like Google doesn’t want anyone who Googles pictures to have to leave Google. I just checked the analytics for my site, and I am getting less traffic referrals from Google than I was before the change. This has to be changed.

    • You are correct Sam, Google doesn’t want people to leave their pages because I bet you before long they will have ads next to our images AND that would be despicable, worse than any of the scummiest image scraper sites.

  11. What iif as part of your image processing you had an option to add a poison pill triggered by copyright infringement?? Instead of a circled C it would be a skull and cross bones. HA!

  12. My stats have dropped off also. I have right click protection on my photos and I agree with you that Google should not be allowed to get around this setting. I see that this will be a long battle with Google. Our photos are the main content of our site and if we prevent Google from indexing them our sites will be nothing. I wonder what this will do to sites like 500px and Flickr?

    • Steve, this will be a long battle against Google and I hope that someone files a class action suit against them so I can join the suit. Major sites with images have also shown tremendous drops on hits, I read somewhere that DeviantArt’s hits dropped close to 500,000 in a day. With so little traffic coming from Google’s Image Search I am seriously considering blocking them entirely with a robots.txt file.

  13. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    Dear Mia, Thank you for this very valuable information. When I had my computer difficulties, my computer guy felt I’d be safer on Google… At that point I didn’t trust any of them and have decided not to post any of my art. This post of yours today just confirms my suspicions.
    It is so difficult to have most people understand what we are up against. I can only thank you for endeavoring to spread the word… for those of us who do not have the wherewithall to deal with these things.
    Today I’ll be showing an autumn robin watercolor in a local show. I’ve come to be happy there still are local things I can be part of. Perhaps by your efforts some safe form of electronic sharing may become possible. But all artists should be most grateful for your efforts…. at least to help others understand the problem even if it can’t be fixed. So many thanks I can’t count them!

    • Merrill,

      I am still trying to figure out how to prevent Google from hotlinking to my images and still have my images show in their searches. At this point with so LITTLE traffic coming from Goggle Image Search I am considering blocking Google access to any of my images.

      How did your show go?

  14. Not nice, it happened to me and all my sites, it is a bad thing.

  15. Hello Mia, Chris and all,
    I have found in my acct settings in G+ (Google plus) that there is a setting under Photos with a check box next to it that says ‘Allow viewers to download my photos’, which box I have not checked. I don’t blog, but I do have photos.

    I am sick to read about the search engine issues. This really needs to be brought directly to the attention Office of the Attorney General. What does Google gain by allowing this? I use Bing for my searches usually anyway.

    • Thanks for the information on G+ Sally.

      I knew I had to prevent my images from being stolen by the scrapers, it never dawned on me that Google was about to become the largest of them all.

  16. Mia, there are ways to block hot-linking of images on sites and blogs. When someone clicks on one of those hot-links they are redirected to a page of your choice. If you administer your blog yourself do a web search for “wordpress block hotlinking images” or ask your admin to implement this for you.

    (Whenever you search for answers to a tech issue, be sure to use the search tools to specify results be returned only from the last year, for example. This will keep you from wasting your time on obsolete answers.)

    I haven’t tested this with the new image search myself, but it should work. Note, it won’t stop Google from offering the link, but it should redirect the user’s browser away from the image.

    • Thanks Bill, I had considered using a WordPress plugin before to block content/image scrapers from accessing my images and hotlinking them on their sites but never thought we’d have to do that with Google. This is so wrong. I do manage my site and several others and those people are also thinking of having me activate a plugin that prevents hotlinking.

  17. Mia, I just checked the Bing search engine for its image search of your images. It’s much more decent, and when I click on your image it leads me to your image and your web page (or the website where it was published, but more often to your webpage), which is what Google image search is not doing.

  18. Well presented, Mia…

    I find it no different than someone stealing other informational content off of web pages. If Google were to copy, word-for-word, a blog page or the text in a news article and present it on Google’s pages, without going to the source website, there would be outrage about copyright infringement.

    Why are images, photos, art, etc. any different? Why is it “OK” to present someone else’s imagery without going to the source website?

    On the one hand, I don’t want to block Google from crawling my images, as about half my traffic comes from web searches. On the other hand…given how much that traffic has declined since this change, it makes no practical difference if I block Google.

    Very frustrated…

    • Terry, I am very frustrated too and the more research I do on this the more I see that publishers, photographers, artists and more are too.

      It isn’t okay for Goggle to do what they have done.

  19. Thank you for such a well written explanation of this travesty! I have taken the liberty of sharing the link to this great post with fellow photogs and blogger (some who are still doing the google search and just grabbing images despite my efforts to educate them). Again – Thanks for such a well written and easy to understand look at this situation!

  20. So not ok with these changes, I may not be a professional photographer, but my images are still mine, now I know why my site isn’t earning grrr as well, wishing I was more computer savvy, thanks for sharing and please let me know what’s happening as I am very interested.

  21. “Webmasters, photographers, artists and more are all seriously considering blocking Google’s robots from indexing our images.”, Mia, let me know how this can be done. I suppose Google is like a “compulsory” search engine for everyone. How disgusting. I know browsers give you the option of using your search engine of preference, but Google always filters through, doesn’t? How disgusting.

  22. So that’s what happened…..yeah, I’m not okay with that change. For those using it as a way to generate income, I would be very angry. Let me know what goes on as I am interested.

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