Yeah, I knew that’d get your attention.
Google has lost the first round in a bout with Perfect 10, a publisher of naked women.
(2/25/2006 Update: They publish pictures of nekkid women; they don’t actually publish women. Now there’s a solid business model!)
The issue is simple, as outlined by the C|Net article:
Perfect 10 sued Google for copyright infringement in November 2004, and then in August 2005, asked for an injunction to halt Google from allegedly copying, displaying and distributing more than 3,000 Perfect 10 photos.
The photo publisher says it’s plagued by copyright pirates who pay its $25.50 monthly fee and then reproduce its copyright images on sites that are indexed by Google and incorporated in its image search feature.
So – in other words – Perfect 10’s clients steal pictures from Perfect 10, post on their own (non-password-protected) sites and Google Images shows thumbnails of this stolen work.
Why doesn’t Perfect 10 try to sue the actual thieves? (Sure, it’s hard – especially when you have the customer’s info…). No, let’s go after the deep pockets!
No mention in the article whether Perfect 10 tried to give Google IP/Domain lists with stolen pics, so the pics would not be indexed and so on. Nah, let’s just sue!!
The ruling included:
U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz ruled Friday that Perfect 10, an adult-oriented Web site featuring “beautiful natural women” in the nude, has shown that Google image search probably infringes copyright law “by creating and displaying thumbnail copies of its photographs.”
This sounds dangerous to me, for two main reasons:
- Fair Use: If the thumbnails here are not fair use, are any? Are any text snippets and so on?
- Burden of Proof: Google is crawling accessible sites. Should they bear the burden of ascertaining if the pics/text are owned by the site? (If it’s demonstrated that Site X is stealing Site Y’s images, and Google is notified and does nothing, that’s a little different…but still). Google didn’t do anything it perceived as illegal, and – and this is key – it was a machine/algorithm that did this work. Not some guy sitting in a office deciding to cull this or that picture. Automagic.
It’ll be interesting to see how this one shakes out; it sounds like a company that’s getting hosed by its own customers, so lashes out at Google. I could well be wrong, and that’d certainly not be a first, but something is out to joint here…