US photo agency Getty Images filed a complaint on Wednesday with the European Commission accusing Google Inc's web search of hurting its business, opening a new front in the Internet giant's anti-competition fight with Brussels.
Brussels, which is already investigating Google over alleged anti-competitive practices linked to its Android smartphone operating software and its web search business, said it would look into the unfair competition complaint from Getty Images.
"The commission has received a complaint, which it will assess," a European Commission spokeswoman told AFP.
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In the latest case, Getty Images accused Google of changing its search functions in 2013 to show galleries of copyrighted photos in high-resolution, large format. Until then, a Google search would only turn up low-resolution thumbnails of the pictures.
Once people had seen the high resolution, large format Getty photo on Google, they no longer had a reason to visit Getty's own site to view the image, said a statement by the photo agency, which has been a distribution partner of AFP since 2003.
"These changes have allowed Google to reinforce its role as the Internet's dominant search engine, maintaining monopoly over site traffic, engagement data and advertising spend," Getty Images general counsel Yoko Miyashita said in the statement.
"This has also promoted piracy, resulting in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates," he added.
Getty said it had approached Google three years ago with its concerns.
"Google's proposed solution was no solution at all: accept its presentation of images in high-res format or opt out of image search. This would mean allowing the harm to continue, or becoming invisible on the Internet," it said.
Google Europe said it would not comment immediately on the case.