February 21, 2006 2:40 PM PST

Nude-photo site wins injunction against Google

A federal judge has ruled that portions of Google's popular image search feature, which displays small thumbnail versions of images found on other Web sites, likely violate U.S. copyright law.

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."

The Los Angeles judge said he would award Perfect 10 a preliminary injunction against Google, and gave lawyers for both sides until March 8 to propose the injunction's wording.

Google said on Tuesday that it plans to appeal the injunction, and predicted it will have no effect on the "vast majority" of its image searches.

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.

Google: Nude photos aren't art

In an unusual position for an Internet firm with aspirations of being a media hub, Google argues that Perfect 10 (P10)'s high-quality nude photographs are not creative. Here's an excerpt from Judge A. Howard Matz's opinion rejecting that claim:

Google argues that P10's works are not creative because P10 "emphasizes the objects of the photographs (nude women) and [P10] assumes that persons seeking Perfect 10's photos are searching for the models and for sexual gratification" Google contends this "implies a factual nature of the photographs."

The Court rejects this argument. The P10 photographs consistently reflect professional, skillful, and sometimes tasteful artistry. That they are of scantily-clad or nude women is of no consequence; such images have been popular subjects for artists since before the time of "Venus de Milo."

In a 48-page opinion (click here for PDF), Matz agreed that Google provides "an enormous public benefit." But, he said, "existing judicial precedents do not allow such considerations to trump" copyright law.

If Google offered only its traditional search feature, optimized for computers with desktop-size screens, the outcome might have been different. But the judge noted two differences: First, the search company apparently receives AdSense advertising revenue from some of the photo-pirating sites, and second, Google's image search has an option for mobile phones.

Google Mobile's image search option permits handheld devices to perform the identical search of more than 2 billion images, then save the scaled-down images for future reference. Those scaled-down images are similar to what Perfect 10 offers as a subscription service through U.K.-based

In a telephone interview with CNET News.com on Tuesday, Daniel Cooper, Perfect 10's general counsel, said, "Certainly the court found those two factors to be of interest. Overall we feel very good about it."

Google did win, however, on one key point. Matz said that the "framing" feature of the company's image search, which displays a thumbnail of the image above a rendering of the original page, did not directly infringe Perfect 10's copyright.

"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 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."

CONTINUED: Google's many copy fights…
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27 comments

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Google looses porn revenue
Without the thumbnails what are 100% of the boys between 8-30 going to do all day on the internet?
Posted by itworker--2008 (130 comments )
Reply Link Flag
8 - 30?
Don't count out the 31-60+ crowd.

When we were demonstrating some high end monitoring equipment (for the chairman of my previous employer), the first web pages we trapped and displayed belonged to a white haired executive vp with a penchant for cheerleaders. :)
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
Higher Productivity?
Maybe it could be for the best, what would all these men do with their time instead of browsing for 'thumbnails'

... maybe increase their productivity searching for useful knowledge, therefore expanding the mindset of the whole population, therefore helping the world & technology develop far quicker than if the majority of gents only adorned 1 inch squares of what they can view every day (as long as they weren't reclusive)(although the internet may be a reclusive area?)
Posted by openminded (2 comments )
Link Flag
You must be joking!
Do you really think that only guys aged between 8-30 like porn on the internet? that is really naive!!
Posted by Dario Western (1 comment )
Link Flag
Where did Google get them?
If the images are on a restricted section of the site, Google will not be able to spider them.

If they are sample pics on the main page available to the general public, what is the big deal so long as Google credits the source (and it does). It would just mean more traffic.

And third, If other sites are hosting prefect 10's copyrighted pics, and Google spiders them, isn't it the third party who is responsible for infringing?

I guess the answers to these questions will surface in time.
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
From the pirate sites.
The story says... These are links to the pirate sites.
Posted by DougDbug (62 comments )
Link Flag
I have 3 words for you!
robots dot txt!

put
User-agent: *
Disallow: /
Posted by Nick D (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
actually robots.txt has nothing to do with this case
from the article:

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.
Posted by declan00 (848 comments )
Link Flag
?
huh? im trying to get into this but i dont understand it.
Posted by JenMarie (5 comments )
Link Flag
?
huh? im trying to get into this but i dont understand it.
Posted by JenMarie (5 comments )
Link Flag
Link?
Where is the link in the story to Perfect10?

I am not sure that I can deduce that it is www.perfect10.com
Posted by davebarnes (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
facilitating piracy, maybe?
From reading the story it seems like Google is being sued for facilitating piracy, i.e. being paid to advertise for sites with pirated content (from Perfect 10, in this instance). I maybe wrong but there seems to be legitimate grievance behind the lawsuit. As an analogy to the offline world, if you are being paid to advertise to help thieves sell (or even distribute for free) stolen goods, it is reasonable to classify you as an accomplice.

On the other hand, web indexing is mostly automated with very little human intervention (with the size of the web being what it is). Even a human would have some difficulty separating the legal content from illegal content in a lot of cases. How then is a piece of software is expected to be able to do that? There seems to be more and more pressure on web content providers and facilitators to use technology to enforce existing laws (and there are plenty of laws that forbid plenty of things on the web). There is a saying that necessity is the mother of invention, but I am really skeptical that software with that kind of intelligence can be invented in the near term, and I shudder to think of the social impact if such software is invented.
Posted by thanhvn (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Accomplice
As an analogy to the offline world, if you are being paid to advertise to help thieves sell (or even distribute for free) stolen goods, it is reasonable to classify you as an accomplice.

So a newspaper should be held accountable for any stolen goods being sold through its want ads?

Ebay needs to check out weather every good being sold on its site is not stolen?
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
Another example
of the law not keeping up to tech.

As an example...

Has ANY newspaper been sued successfully for running want ads of stolen goods? The newspaper is earning money off other ads in the paper (equivelent to Google earning $ with Adsense).

If a newspaper does not have to verify the legality of what is being sold in their very own paper how can Google be held accountable for what is being sold on 3rd party sites?

Perfect10 has to go after the pirates, not Google.

BTW...seems to me that, in America, you can get some pretty good free advertising for your website by just launching a suit against Google or Yahoo etc....when this gets shot down in the courts I hope Google can counter sue for the boost in revenue Perfect10 will get from this 'air time'
****Personal Act of Tyranny***
Oh ya...don't forget...if you want to run OSX on your x86 you are NOT allowed to know how to do it in the US...there does seem to be some info ;) on a foreign site www maxxuss com (put the dots in...I don't want to be shut down by DMCA)
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Reply Link Flag
slight correction
www maxxuss ru
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
Slight correction: Google, Adwords, and French trademark law
Actually, Google won a judicial battle over its Adwords in France, for the first time. This happened two weeks ago
Posted by C Manara (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Where does copyright reach end?
If these photos are copyright material, why didn't the website owner secure them behind an HTTPS login, whether free or subscription only?

Why didn't the website owner deny the directories in a robot.txt file in the root of the web server?

And didn't the website owner gain web traffic thanks to Google?

This lawsuit sounds like an attempt at grabbing free press and suing a big company for money. Nothing more.

This ruling endangers everything a search engine indexes: words, photos, icons, etc.

Why should copyright and patent laws serve only the corporate arm? Why can't it also serve the public interest?

Think of the economic impacts if search engines had to be shut down because of copyright laws.
Posted by wessman (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
can you read?
The article said that Google indexed the images from websites who were using the images illegally. So you comment about HTTPS and robot.txt and website owners is completely out of context. Go ahead and argue that Google shouldn't have to worry about whether other people violate copyright law but at least don't muddle the argument.
Posted by mikjones (1 comment )
Link Flag
LOL
that is awesome.
Posted by dave aszenine (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Duh...robots.txt
Google's attorney's blew it. Perfect 10 has the ability to to not have their files indexed by putting a robots.txt file in their main directory. Someone call Judge Metz and give him a heads-up on this.

Steven Moshlak
www.computerlegalexperts.com
Posted by computerlegalexperts.com (23 comments )
Reply Link Flag
robots.txt has nothing to do with this case
from the article:

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.
Posted by declan00 (848 comments )
Link Flag
Worst Web Design I Have Ever Seen
Dude, your site is an animated GIFfy piece of crap.
Posted by Soupir (24 comments )
Link Flag
Worst Web Design I Have Ever Seen
Dude, your site is an animated GIFfy piece of crap.
Posted by Soupir (24 comments )
Link Flag
Worst.Website.Ever.
Your website's design stinks. Animated GIFs and no CSS? Y-a-w-n.
Posted by Soupir (24 comments )
Link Flag
 

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