[#tl;dr translation: Bing now let’s you easily filter on the basis of licenses, aka, the right to reuse (beyond the rights of fair use). Bravo, Bing!]
For years I have been arguing that there’s something ridiculous about the way search engines enable people to find and use content — given the rule of copyright. While Yahoo, then Google, then Bing all enabled people to dig deep into the bowels of “advanced search” to filter search results on the basis of the license, 99% of users don’t know how to dig (Minecraft notwithstanding). So we have a world the the law restricts reuse, but the architecture of search engines doesn’t make it simple for people to know which stuff they have the right to reuse.
The obvious answer, I have been arguing, is for the search engines to more easily permit content to be filtered on the basis of the right to reuse. So just as the Google Image search bar lets me filter on the basis of size, color, type and time, it should also, I’ve argued, make it easy to filter on the basis of the right to reuse.
I was launched on just such a tirade last week, when I was met by a puzzled look from a Microsoft executive. “Show me what you mean,” he asked. So I went to the Google Image search page, searched on “cats” and showed him all the ways I could filter those images of cats. The right to reuse was not on that list.
"Do the same search in Bing," he told me.
I did. And there, on the image search bar, it is: “License” — which, if you extend, gives you the full range of permissions paralleling the range of CC licenses.
I am completely embarrassed by my google-induced ignorance. And I’m completely committed to tying Bing now that it makes permissions so simple. I’m hopeful they can think more about whether “license” is the right word here. But regardless, Microsoft has taken an important step to make easier for users to use the content they are free to use, and respect the rights of copyright owners who don’t want their content reused.