After providing a gross arsenal of bitmap art crimes to design-blind office drones for the better part of two decades, Microsoft officially announced that it was ending support for clip art in 2014. But it appears that Microsoft has had a change of heart. The Next Web reports that Microsoft just integrated clip art back into Office and Windows 10, as part of a partnership with the Swedish photo database Pickit.
The good news is that Pickit’s 1.2 billion-image library is a hell of a lot bigger than clip art’s ever was, and not nearly as grotty. Basically, the images on Pickit are uploaded to the database by stock image libraries and individual photographers. Those people earn 60% of the revenue on the images, and the revenue is generated through bulk licensing deals (like Microsoft’s) and individual licensing (for publications and other corporate use).
Why is Microsoft providing clip art again two years after killing it off? We’ve reached out for comment, and will update this post when Microsoft replies.
Whatever the reasons, one can imagine that it’s a smart move in the legal department. In 2014, when Microsoft first discontinued clip art in its Office products, the company directed users to search Bing for images to use instead. Unfortunately, the images pumped out of Bing image search aren’t necessarily legal for people to use, which has likely resulted in millions of photos being improperly used in both amateur and professional Office documents alike. Pickit estimates that a whopping 85% of all images used in presentations are stolen wholesale. Getty Images is now filing an antitrust complaint against Google over image search in the EU, claiming it encourages photo piracy. Microsoft has been the target of antitrust allegations before. It would make sense that the company would want to integrate a database of legal images within its products.
That said, I doubt that Pickit can ever fully replace Microsoft’s old clip art library. Where’s the Y2K computer, the robot diskette, and the guy juggling a whole beige desktop (including keyboard and monitor) over his head?