Google gets caught in naked row

Google's image search service violates the copyrights of adult magazine and Web publisher Perfect 10, a federal judge has ruled.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 15:05 IST

Google Inc's image search service violates the copyrights of adult magazine and Web publisher Perfect 10 Inc by displaying thumbnail-sized photographs site, a federal judge has ruled.

However, Google is likely not responsible for displaying the underlying images from Perfect 10's Web site, a judge in the US District Court for the Central District of California said in a ruling last week that was made public on Tuesday.

The order could effectively bar Google from featuring thumbnail pictures -- small versions of photos that are linked to a bigger version of the same picture -- but not limit Google from linking to actual photos which exist on other Web sites.

The judge accepted that people who click on full-size images from Perfect 10 are not viewing images that Google has stored or served up on its computers but links to other sites.

Google argued that its thumbnails constitute fair use.

US District Court Judge A Howard Matz ordered Google and Perfect 10 to develop a preliminary injunction that reflects both factors. His ruling was issued on Friday and released to the public on Tuesday.

"The court now concludes that Google's creation and display of 'thumbnails' likely do directly infringe P10's (Perfect 10's) copyrights," he wrote in the ruling.

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.

"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," Kwun said.

Perfect 10 plans to appear at a court hearing on Wednesday to seek additional evidence to support its claims against Google, said company attorney Daniel Cooper.

"Everything that we tried to sell for a living, they were displaying for free," Cooper said.

Cooper said Perfect 10 is considering whether to appeal the judge's decision on Google and third-party sites.

Perfect 10 first sued Google and Inc, which runs the A9 Internet search engine and uses Google technology, in 2004. Matz said he would issue a separate order for Amazon.

In his ruling, the judge notes the value of Google image searches in simplifying and expediting access to information, but agrees that Google's use of thumbnails makes it a commercial consumer of Perfect 10's images. In particular, the Google-created thumbnails hurt Perfect 10's efforts to sell small images to mobile phone users, the judge ruled.

Beverly Hills, California-based Perfect 10 publishes photos of nude women in a magazine that sells for $7.99 per issue and at a subscription-based Web site that costs $25.50 per month.

First Published: Feb 23, 2006 12:58 IST