Google Images’ ‘Licensable’ Badge to Help Photographers Sell Photos


Google Images is continuing to make changes that benefit photographers. The image search engine is testing a new “Licensable” badge that aims to help photographers sell their photos through search results.

Back in February 2018, after Getty Images lodged “anti-competitive” complaints against it in the US and EU, Google began working with the stock agency to make changes to Google Images that would help protect photographers’ copyright. Days later, it removed the “View Image” button that allowed anyone to download full-res versions of photos while bypassing the host webpage. In September 2018, Google added image rights metadata to photo search results to make it clear who the owner of a photo is.

One of Google’s latest efforts in this area is the new Licensable badge, which started its Beta test in February 2020.

By specifying licensing information for the photos on your website, Google will automatically add a new “Licensable” badge to the photo’s thumbnail whenever it shows up in Google Images results. The badge tells viewers that license information is available for the photo.

A link to the license is displayed in the Image Viewer when you click the thumbnail, providing more details for how the photo can be licensed.

(1) A URL to a page that describes the license governing an image’s use. (2) A URL to a page that describes where the user can find information on how to license that image.

While the feature hasn’t begun to show up in Google Images yet, Google is already allowing anyone to provide the licensing info for photos through metadata or structured data if you host your own photo website. And photo hosting companies such as PhotoShelter have already begun baking the licensing data into hosted photos.

“We’ve been at this for 15 years now, and in that time many of our photographer members have seen little to no value in Google Images,” PhotoShelter co-founder Grover Sanschagrin writes. “We’ve even received hundreds of requests from photographers looking to block Google Images from seeing their work. From their perspective, Google Images just makes it easier for people to steal their images.

“Until now. With the announcement of the new Google Image Licensing program, many of these skeptical photographers are excited about the potential it could bring.”

If you’d like your photos to display the Licensable badge in Google Images when the feature is made available, make sure you correctly provide licensing data for the Googlebot web crawler to see by following the instructions in this documentation.

“This is good news, especially for independent photographers looking to sell images from their own websites,” Sanschagrin writes. “Google Images has the potential to be a main traffic and revenue source for photographers, assuming they are set up to take advantage of it.”



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