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Ruling: Image Search Violates Copyright

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, February 23, 2006 at 10:55 pm

A federal court has ruled that Google’s image search violates the copyrights of Perfect 10 Inc. by displaying thumbnails of images from the publisher’s website in the search results.

The argument that showing thumbnails in search results constitutes copyright infringement is similar to previous arguments leveled at Google Print — namely that search engines shouldn’t be able to display book snippets in the SERPs because that is the same as “republishing” copyrighted content.

The difference is that the intent of Google Print (aka Google Books) was to take content that did not exist online, whose authors had no intent of putting on the Web, and scan it in order to display those snippets. In this case, Perfect 10 Inc was disputing thumbnail displays of photos it presumably wants people to find, but only directly on its website and for a fee.

The ruling could prevent Google from featuring thumbnail pictures, but not limit Google from linking to actual photos which exist on other Web sites. Google expects to appeal an injunction if the judge issues one, the Mountain View, California-based company’s litigation counsel Michael Kwun said in a statement.

Kwun tries to reassure us: “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.”

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