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    Google: The World's Biggest Art Thief

Google, everyone's favorite "do no evil" search engine, recently changed how its Image Search feature works. And the result is an absolute horror for artists everywhere. Whether you share your art on theO or on other sites like dA or Tumblr, something terrible just happened.

In the old days, when you browsed Google Image Search and clicked on a thumbnail, you'd go to the site that hosted the image. You'd see the work in context as it was meant to be seen. You'd see the creator's other works, read their comments and maybe make friends. This has always been the "fair" way to handle image linking.


When you see a thumbnail you like and click on it, you stay on Google and see a much bigger image on the same page. There's no reason to go further. While Google might argue that there's a "visit site" button next to the enlarged image, our internal data shows that almost no one bothers to click on it. If your portfolio received 100 visitors from people checking out a thumbnail on Google Image Search a few weeks ago, today that number would be less than 10.

Here's a screen shot to demonstrate the new system and how little incentive people have to actually clickthrough to the page that hosts the image:

Result: If you're an artist who shares your work online, the vast majority of people who find and enjoy your art via Google Image Search won't ever clickthrough to your actual portfolio.

And it keeps getting worse.

The fullsized image that Google displays is served by the actual site that hosts the image. This practice is known as "hotlinking" and means that the original site has to pay the cost of serving the image. While a big site like ours can afford the bandwidth, hotlinking can wreck smaller sites with bandwidth overage bills and slowdown. I fear for artists who host their works on their own web servers...

When people view images out of context like this, they're much less likely to respect the artist's ownership of those images. It becomes a 'dog drawing I found on Google' and not 'MangaKid's drawing of a dog' - Google is creating the world's most advanced breeding ground for plagiarism.

This is art theft on an unprecedented scale and we're considering blocking Google's Image Search altogether.

We encourage you to voice your disapproval on Google's original blog post about this issue.

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