Up until recently, on Google Image Search, it was possible to access any image directly, without having to view its containing web page first. This had advantages, because the image might have been removed from the website but still available in its files, and it saved you a ton of time scrolling through the source websites to find the images.

However, it appears that Google has received complaints the European Comission on behalf of Getty Images (as reported by the BBC). Since Getty, and many companies like it, made it their business to sell images, they don’t enjoy it when people download their images without permission.

Still, images sold by Getty, 123RTF and friends are almost always protected by a watermark, so it’s difficult to see what the problem is there. Google has in fact confirmed that the removal of the image direct link button is pursuant to Getty Images’ complaint.

“For those asking, yes, these changes came about in part due to our settlement with Getty Images this week. […] They are designed to strike a balance between serving user needs and publisher concerns, both stakeholders we value.”

Getty Images is pleased:

“We are pleased to announce that after working cooperatively with Google over the past months, our concerns are being recognized and we have withdrawn our complaint.”

But what of graphic designers looking for inspiration, and free images not hosted by Getty and friends? The “open image in new tab” button was a real lifesaver. Can we bring it back?

It turns that we can. For one thing, here is a Chrome extension that brings the open image in new tab button back. You can also find its GitHub source here.

If you’re a GreaseMonkey user, you can also find the extension as a UserScript.