Google image search: Here's why the View Image button just vanished

Copyright owners claim a victory over Google's image search.

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Google has removed the 'View Image' button in image search results, eliminating a simple way for users to see an image in isolation from the page it was sourced from.

The seemingly small change has implications for many users since it makes it more difficult to save high-resolution images straight from image search results.

The change is related to last week's announcement by Getty Images of a new multi-year licensing partnership with Google. Getty Image's iStock announced that Google had agreed to make its image search copyright disclaimer more prominent and remove the View Image button.

The photo agency last year filed a competition complaint with the European Commission accusing Google of promoting piracy because its image search results included large, high-resolution images. Before 2013 it only offered thumbnail images. Getty Images has also been lobbying regulators in the US and Europe.

Google announced the changes on Tuesday, explaining the move as a way to "help connect users and useful websites".

The button that remains is View, which takes users to the website the image was sourced from. That's probably good news for publishers but a potentially unpopular extra step for Image search users.

"Today we're launching some changes on Google Images to help connect users and useful websites. This will include removing the View Image button. The Visit button remains, so users can see images in the context of the webpages they're on," Google said in a tweet.

Google added that the changes were partly due to its settlement with Getty Images. "They are designed to strike a balance between serving user needs and publisher concerns, both stakeholders we value," said Google.

Google noted that the Search by Image button is also being removed. However, reverse image search still works by dragging an image to the search bar of Google Images.

There are still simple ways of copying pictures from Google image search for users running popular Windows browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. Users can choose from a menu of options by right-clicking on a photo in Google search.

As part of last week's settlement, Google also agreed to "a global strategic partnership that will see deeper integration of Getty Images' world-class imagery across Google's suite of products and services", according to Getty Images.

"We will work closely with Google to improve attribution of our contributors' work and grow the ecosystem," the photo agency said.

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