February 22, 2006

Fair Use In Google Image Search Ruling [8:48 am]

Google’s Image Search Set Back [pdf]

U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz in Los Angeles ruled that Google was likely to lose at least part of a copyright infringement case filed by a publisher of adult magazines and websites. Perfect 10 Inc. alleged that Google users could find for free its pictures of nude women, for which it normally charges. The search engine links to such images posted improperly on other websites.

Matz said he planned to grant Perfect 10 a preliminary injunction and asked the two companies to negotiate an agreement by March 8. That could include requiring Google to block Perfect 10 images from its searches.

If upheld, the judge’s preliminary ruling could throw a kink into the way Mountain View, Calif.-based Google collects and displays photographs in the image portion of its search engine. Lawyers not involved with the case said it would have little effect on Google’s overall business, which generated $6.1 billion in revenue last year.

[...] Nonetheless, the case demonstrates how technological change is outpacing the law.

[...] Google appeared poised to win a key part of the lawsuit, which argued that the company was liable for the infringement of every website it linked to that contained copyrighted images. Matz said Google differed from file-sharing networks that encourage copyright infringement and called it unlikely that Perfect 10 would win its broader claim. He said he would deny its request for a preliminary injunction over that claim.

Had Matz ruled differently on that point, “a huge part of the World Wide Web would be suddenly vulnerable to legal attack,” said Fred von Lohmann, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The opinion - Perfect 10 v Google

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