So, it appears Google (GOOG) is expanding their Google Image Search into the "photo search" game beyond their images.google.com mechanism, which returns results from the entire internet, all proprietarily owned by the respective websites that display them in the first place (or those that the website has obtained them from). Enter Picassa's "community photos" search.
Now, instead of just searching for images in your own gallery, you can search everyone's galleries. You don't even have to be signed in to do it, just click here. For example, searching flowers returns 350,486 images tagged with that. A search for "white house" returns 15,914. In fact, an attractive image of the White House can be seen here, or here's the link to just start the download immediately.
And what is Google charging for this service, pray tell?
Right, you guessed it, free.
Picassa's page reads:
You can now discover and explore an amazing array of photos taken by the Picasa Web Albums community. Just select "Community Photos" in the search box, enter your search term, and enjoy!When you're thinking about uploading photos, the text reads:
Don't worry - we never include your photos without your ok. Your unlisted albums never appear in Picasa Web Albums public search results. And if you'd prefer not to have your public albums appear in Picasa Web Albums public search results, just uncheck the public search option on the Settings page.However, the default setting is for "public" on your images, and "download" and "allow prints" as well. How would you disable print for your photos? The language is pretty specific "Deselect the box marked 'allow visitors to order prints of my photos.'" When I uploaded an image, it was defaulted to be in a "public" album, and it was also defaulted to allow prints. In order words, I have to actually choose to preclude people from being able to order prints. Further, note the language above "just uncheck the public search option", meaning, again, it's defaulted to let the public search/view/download.
Have fun exploring all the photos in the Picasa Web Albums community!
Same thing goes for permission to download. It starts off "You can change your Content Control Settings in Picassa Web Albums to prevent visitors from downloading your albums." It goes on to say "deselect the checkbox labeled 'enable people viewing my albums to download them.'" However, here's the rub, further down "Please also remember that this is a photo-sharing service; in general, we recommend that you don't post any photos on Picasa Web Albums that you prefer not to share with anyone." Oh, really? In other words, don't clog our servers with your own personal photos or photo archives. Only post photos that you want to give away for free to the 'community'?
"Oh Mr. Peabody?"
"Mr. Peabody, let's hit the wayback machine for a brief history lesson:"
Wikpedia says about iStockphoto - The company was founded by Bruce Livingstone in May, 2000. Originally iStockphoto was a free stock imagery website. Over the course of time it transitioned into its current micropayment model. The website was originally supported by CEO Livingstone's web development firm, Evolvs Media, but began charging money in 2001.
Here's a slightly more insightful interview with Mr. L from Design Mentor Training:
"...After deciding he was not going to make it in the traditional stock photography business, Bruce created a free Web site to share his images with a network of designer and photographer friends, and iStockphoto was born. Initially a trading site, iStockphoto introduced the micropayment model in 2000, where buyers purchase credits in blocks starting at $10 each."So, free web site....share...images...network of...friends? Sound familiar? Maybe Mr. L should revisit the part above about "not going to make it in the traditional stock photography business..." part.
So, what about size? Well, it's up to the uploader. This search yields an image of celebrity Petra Nemcova at an America's Cup event arrivals area. It's a 300dpi file at 3.5" x 5.3". Want to see the full-sized file? Picasa will serve it up to you free by clicking here. Interestingly, the Google/Picasa page lists "74810330" as one of the image tags. Go to Getty (GYI), and seach the same number, and ten images are returned, all from that same event. Here's the photo at Getty with the watermark. Is Getty seeding images there, giving them away for free? That same sequence # 74810330 again searched on Picasa yields three images from the same arrivals event, one from a JimmyJones23 (and that's Jimmy's ONLY image he's posted) is identical to the Bekendheden image that I was first referring to, and Bekendheden also has a third image that's full length, also identical to one on Getty. It could well be that Bekendheden's got unauthorized images in his public Picasa folder, but they're decent resolution files, without any watermarks, which means he paid to download the ones we're discussing here.
This search for "Getty Images", yields over 9,000 images with that in the caption. Is it possible that there's over 9,000 copyright infringements on Picasa? Well, yes. Is it likely? Who knows. A number of the images on Picasa are from celebrity events and NBA games, and many (but not all) of the NBA images have the NBA logo on them. Meaning, possibly, that Getty shot them, and delivered them to the NBA as per their contract, and then fans downloaded the images for personal use, and have them in their personal/public Picasa folders. Somehow, that's probably within the rules of the NBA use, and Picasa's TOS. Or, maybe, it's Getty's doing. The metadata/keywords for this image from the arrivals area at the Golden Globes from last year, on Picasa look remarkably the same as those here. Why? Well, because they're the same image, and they appear on BOTH sites. Again, Getty - you pay; Picasa - it's free. Then, a search for that photographer's name, Frazier Harrison yields 124 images on Picasa, and only a handful are watermarked. Again - free from Picasa, pay to Getty. What I find interesting, is that few, if any, of those that have posted images on Picasa from Getty have also posted their own personal photos, which is what many other Picasa users typically do. It's as if these Picasa logins/galleries are actually all Getty shell accounts. Next to none of them have headshots of themselves either, it's the anonymous default shilouette graphic.
Ok, so, file not large enough? As I noted, it's up to the uploader. Photographer Mike Baird, who's caption of the photo to the left reads, in part "This Snowy Egret was shot at 1/4000th second, f 7.1, ISO 800 at 400mm...", which is a 300dpi file at 8" x 5.3". To download the full-rez file, click here.
So, what rights do you have to use Picasa? According to Google's Picasa Terms of Service:
Your RightsHere's the most important sentence there:"by submitting, posting or displaying Content which is intended to be available to the general public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services." Thus, since your content is "available to the general public", and further, you've granted Google the right to "distribute" your work, "royalty-free", all recipients of the images recieve a royalty-free license to use them.
Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Picasa Web Albums. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Picasa Web Albums and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Picasa Web Albums, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content through Picasa Web Albums, including RSS or other content feeds offered through Picasa Web Albums, and other Google services. In addition, by submitting, posting or displaying Content which is intended to be available to the general public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, distribute and publish such Content for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services. Google will discontinue this licensed use within a commercially reasonable period after such Content is removed from Picasa Web Albums. Google reserves the right to refuse to accept, post, display or transmit any Content in its sole discretion.
How is this the same, or different, from Flickr? The Flickr Community Guidelines reads:
Don’t use Flickr for commercial purposes.But that refers to running some form of business on Flickr. Nowhere does it say "if we find you obtaining images for commercial use...". This admonition is only for "selling." Further, many of the images on Flickr only require photo credit, under the Creative Commons licensing model, meaning that, which the exception of the "non-commercial" preclusion, you can pretty much publish the image as-is without any payment to the copyright holder. Google has not integrated any Creative Commons restrictions to it's files.
Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account.
So, how does all this work? Well, the nice Picasa graphic below explains a lot:
The image below is returned, among the results. It's a 300dpi file that's 5.3" x 3.6", and, when open, is 5MB, which is about the size of the file from the camera that produced it - a "Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT", but perhaps it's cropped just a bit:
Here, to the left, you see the "more info" box, where you can choose "order prints". In the print dialog box, you then specify Shutterfly or Photoworks, and then the image is transfered to their site for printing. (this particular community member has turned off "download photos" for the photo above, this dialog box is adjacent to other images).
Here, below and to the right, you now see that the photo I've chosen has been added to my cart/order. I may now view my order, or keep browsing for other photographs that I'd like to have a print of.
Below, on the image that I uploaded, you'll see the "Download Photo" option, just above the "Album" and "order prints" choices, which allows you to download the original file size, without any downsampling. For this image, I've uploaded a very small image. As I mentioned above, it's a default choice to have your photos available for downloading by anyone and everyone, you must deselect the option if you don't want people to download your images.
So, how did that photo get there? It's extremely simple. I just downloaded the free (of course) Picasa Web Albums Uploader, and drag and drop the photos I wanted to upload to Picasa, and, note, the default choice for your album, as I noted above, is "Public Album".
I can easily see a point in the future where Google will add a column to the side of the search results where the images appear, displaying Google Ads.
Google has also added (and this is within the last few days, as far as I can tell) a new "drop down menu" to their images.google.com search, as shown to the left. This "search by size" capability is something that Flickr does not currently have. In addition, it would be most easy to add other choices, like "From Picasa", but for now, choosing "Large images", gives you, well, large images.
So, when exactly did this service become "new"? How long do they refer to what they're doing as either "new", or "Just Added"? Certainly, I've seen little to no public discourse or reporting on this. Yet, burried in a Google Groups discussion list for those working on coding/programming is this thread - Feature Launch:
- New features include:
- Community search
- Retrieving a user's recently uploaded photos
- Retrieving comments recently added to photos owned by a user
- Searching a user's photos
- Filtering by tag
- Uploading non-jpeg photos (bmp, png, gif now supported)
- Downloading an original photo
I've got a number of questions in to the Google folks looking for clarification, and I'll update this post where necessary or helpful.
And yes, free beats $1 from iStockphoto.
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