Partial Ruling on Google Image Search & Copyright Infringement
Google and other search engines just got slammed by the mallet of U.S. District Court Judge Howard Matz who issued a partial ruling that Google Image Search infringes on the copyrights of Perfect 10 by displaying thumbshots of stolen Perfect 10 images in its search results.
Google didn’t steal the images of Perfect 10, instead other web sites have and Google spiders have indexed those sites and added the image files of those sites to the Google Image Search results.
Judge Matz’s ruling is not a direct blow to Google, as Matz said that ‘Google could not be held responsible when viewers click on the images and are directed to third-party sites that contain full-size images stolen from Perfect 10’s Web site’.
Judge Matz ordered Google and Perfect 10 to craft an injunction which would let Google Image Search continue displaying its images while respecting the copyrights of Perfect 10’s work, and the copyrighted work of others.
Problem is, if Google agrees to do so, Matz rules against Google in the case, and Google can not overturn the ruling in the court of appeals – this could be a striking blow to all image search engines as a large percentage of Image works indexed are copyrighted.
“While we’re disappointed with portions of the ruling, we are pleased with Judge Matz’s favorable ruling on linking and other aspects of Google image search,” Google spokesman Michael Kwun told the Associated Press. “We anticipate that any preliminary injunction will have no effect on the vast majority of image searches and will affect only searches related to Perfect 10.”
When a user clicks on a thumbnail, the page splits into two frames. The top of the page displays a narrow band that includes the thumbnail image and a warning that the thumbnail “may be scaled down and subject to copyright.” The band is hosted on computers owned by Google.
The lower part of the page is hosted by the third-party Web site that displays the full-size image.
Perfect 10 alleges that the display of the thumbnail is a direct violation of its copyright, and that the display of the larger image, even though it is hosted by a third-party Web site, constitutes a secondary copyright infringement on the part of Google.
Judge Matz ruled that Perfect 10 had submitted enough evidence to conclude that it would succeed in a trial on its claim of direct copyright infringement.