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November 19, 2008

Google Hosts LIFE Photo Collection

When your mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", you have to first gather the information. If it's not online, the first thing that needs to be done is to get the permission to use that data or to create a system that allows copyright owners to upload their works and to monetize them.

Google started to host content in 2001 when it acquired the Usenet archive, then it used Google Video to host movies and documentaries from the US National Archives and it digitized books from public libraries and newspaper archives.

Google Image Search's index will increase with about 10 million high-quality images from the Life Magazine's photo archive. "This collection of newly-digitized images includes photos and etchings produced and owned by LIFE dating all the way back to the 1750s. Only a very small percentage of these images have ever been published. The rest have been sitting in dusty archives in the form of negatives, slides, glass plates, etchings, and prints," explains Google.

It's interesting that Time reached an agreement with Getty Images to host the archive. "The collection contains the historic photos that LIFE published through the decades, in addition to many never-before-seen pictures of Hollywood stars, sports heroes, important people and events from the '30's though the '90's."

The photos are included in Google Image Search's index and you can restrict the results to the LIFE collection by appending source:life to your query: [apollo source:life].


  1. Does anyone know where the ratings are saved for these pictures? I noticed that you can rate the images from Life. Just curious.

  2. Any idea about the license? Can I reuse the pics or just look at them (which is already nice).

  3. @Carsten:
    That's a good question. The images are copyrighted by Time Inc, so you should get permission to use them in other contexts.

  4. Does anyone know if you an license the photo archive system Google has developed? We are in use of a large photo database system - must be simple and easy to use. Google's seems so straight forward but doesn't seem to make it a product others can use to add their own images.


  5. If you want to contact Google for a business proposal, use this form.

  6. Thank you very much, Alex! I appreciate it.


  7. Anyone else have problems with the life search ?
    When i enter *searchname* source:life i get the thumbs without problem but when i click on a thumb i get just a blank frame and can´t see any of the pices in full size !?
    Only about 1-4 % of it ??
    Maybe someone can enlighten me ?
    Thanks in advance !



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