Judge Issues Injunction Against Google... For Copyright Violations Others Did

from the uh,-why-is-Google-at-fault? dept

Nearly a year and a half ago, we wrote about an online "adult entertainment" company that was suing Google over thumbnails in its image search. This was problematic for a few reasons. First, other US courts have said that simply linking to images via thumbnails isn't copyright infringement. Second, and more importantly, the real copyright infringement here was that others had taken these photos from a fee-based site and put them online. In other words, it wasn't even Google that was infringing on anyone's copyrights, but those who reposted the photos online. The company should have been going after those actually responsible -- but went after Google because it's the big easy target with the most money. Apparently, the company's lawyers have convinced the judge, who has now issued an injunction against Google, for simply indexing and linking to images that were freely available online. The judge's reasoning focuses on two issues, neither of which seem particularly relevant to the actual case. First, some of the sites that have posted the unauthorized photos are also using Google AdSense to make money. Again, that's separate from what the original suit was about -- Google's searching capabilities. And, once again, the real issue is the sites that are hosting these photos. If those sites were stopped from hosting the images, the Google AdSense point wouldn't matter. The second issue is that the porn company offers a "mobile" service, that shows similarly sized thumbnails for a fee -- and so the judge says that Google's thumbnails take away from that service. Again, though, Google has no way of knowing these photos are from. It's just indexing the public internet. So, again, we have to wonder why the judge is punishing Google, when the real culprits are those who took the photos and reposted them to the web? The judge should be asking the other company why it decided not to go after those actually responsible.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Bob, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 4:38pm

    Target

    "So, again, we have to wonder why the judge is punishing Google.."

    Many are angry with Google these days. The government for the Chinese censorship debacle, the public for feeling spied upon and betrayed in their private searches, the markets for the recent earnings miss.

    Also, the bigger you are, the the bigger the bullseye. These days it seems everyone wants a piece of Google, a piece of that 2 billion dollar cash hoard.

    Make yourself a tempting target, and that's exactly what you'll be.

     

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  2.  
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    WhoTheHellCaresWhatMyNameIs, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 4:51pm

    Holy Hell

    This is stupid. Every day nontechnical base user level people are making decisions to govern the cyber world. They need to establish a courts and (unrelated) patent offices specifically for interaction with the emerging technologies. They are not the old world, and to hold them to the old rules is often foolish.

     

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  3.  
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    Samuel P. Adams, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 4:55pm

    Good result

    The reason for this ruling is Google is making money from the ad placement on the offending site. If the adsense ads were not there, the result would likely have been different. As it stands now, Google is profiting from a site that has illegal images in two complementary ways, first, by placing paid ads on the site and second, by linking users to the site from which Google profits.

     

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  4.  
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    Rob, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 5:01pm

    Leave Google Alone

    1. Google gives me the most relevant information when I do searches. I solve problems faster (do my job better) because Google is the best at what it does.
    2. Any company that can keep Microsoft from controlling yet another corner of the technology world is OK with me.
    3. Google is your friend… don’t sue your friend.

     

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  5.  
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    David Zawislak, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 5:33pm

    Re: Good result

    This is not a good result. You shouldn't be able to sue Hanes which makes the T-shirt that you print a pirated and copyrighted photo.

     

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  6.  
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    Irony, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 6:40pm

    I think this makes some sense

    Google doesn't just link to an image and thumbnail it for that session. They aren't like an ISP that just transmits the data ands might have a transitory cache.
    They republish images that they have copied and stored on their server for commercial gain.
    Also, since we know they for their own protection and odd little reasons removed entire companies from their database, they at some point might have some responsibility not to help promote illegal use of copyrighted materials.
    Technology creates some wide gray lines about what is a copy of content vs just service transmitting data. BUT in this case.. I think a good law student can make the case that Google makes and uses copies of material for its own commercial use.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 7:00pm

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    thats all bull.

    google isn't doing anything illegal. yes, they can remove entire companies, but thats a targeted attack. you can't filter for copyrighted material. cause you can't know its copyrighted material. the only way it can tell if something is copyrighted is if it had an entire list of every copyrighted image known to man and compared each one to it. even that wouldn't work well cause a few slight changes to the image would cause it to be a mismatch.

    learn how a search is actually performed before saying they can filter for copyrighted materials. i'm guessing you'd say kazaa and all those apps should be sued because they're promoting illegal use of copyrighted materials. if not, then you're a huge hypocrit... cause its the same thing.

    google can't be held responsible for someone being able to find someone else breaking the law. in fact, they should be thanked. if not for google, they wouldn't have any idea these other people are breaking the law.

     

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  8.  
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    Matt Sherwood, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 7:03pm

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    irony, you are correct. once again, the mid-level techies in this group fail to perceive things deeply. i attribute it to an educational background that stessed technical competence (a mid-level skill), to the neglect of general reasoning ability (a high-level skill). I don't know whether at this stage in their lives anything can be done to remedy this sitauation; perhaps if they acknowledge it and take action to correct it, yes, but who ever really acknowledges things like these?

     

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  9.  
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    roflmao, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 7:27pm

    have you ever tried aol for broadband

    My husband decedided it was a good idea to try aol for broadband. I called to cancel, they wouldnt and gave me more free time. I called again to cancel. They offered me the service for half price for a year, I said no. They offered me 2 months free and the service for 4.95 a month. I still said no.
    They said it would be canceled. My first billing date arrived and there was 14.95 out of my account to aol. I called the bank who then gave me a number to aol. When I called the number the bank gave me I was quickly credited the money to my account and promised that I would receive no more communications from aol. When I called the number from the bank I was connected to a person no voice system or anything.
    They kept trying to tell me I needed it for the music and videos. And of course for the chat.
    I just feel sorry for all the people still stuck with aol for their isp.
    Ive never seen a company give away so much free service. Guess thats why they have to raise their prices. Aol had its day and now its time for it to fade away.

     

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  10.  
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    Andrew Strasser, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 8:51pm

    Sometimes you get picked on.

    Especially when you're hindering investigations. E-mail's per say by G-mail were signed up for with IP's though they don't want to share those things. When they don't share then intl. rings of theives get away. This makes total sense to me.


    I hope I never get sued over using this wonderful picture I found online.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Copyright Holder, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 9:29pm

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    AC wrote "you can't filter for copyrighted material. cause you can't know its copyrighted material."

    well... all images are copyrighted by someone. a copyright doesnt necessarily have to be registered to be a copyright. anyone taking a picture with any camera is the copyright holder of that image regardless of who owns the camera, unless they give up their copyright to another party.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 9:59pm

    No Subject Given

    did no one contact Google to ask them to have the offending items removed from their database?

     

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  13.  
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    A Funny Guy / The Poison Pen, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 10:16pm

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    I'm not so sure you so called techies understand business.

    These ad-sense accounts everyone keeps harping about that google gets money from.

    Its true they get revenue from these sites however its very easy to set up an adsense account and the code can be put on as many pages as the person who holds the account wants. No company in the world would have the time and resources to police the goggle adsense network by itself.
    Each adsense account is registered to a person and paid for or to a bank account or some form of instrument for money transfer.
    This being true it would have made way more sense to go after the real offender here rather than the company whos ads happened to be on the page of the criminal in question.

    Our sue happy society needs to get a clue and hold the people who do the wrong accountable and not everybody standing within a 5 mile radius of the individual.

    I for one am not being paid to be a police officer and refuse to do their job for them.

    If someone wants to sue me for that.... Be MY FUCKING GUEST!

    I'll represent myself in court and have no doubt in my mind I'll quote this message to anyone who happens to ask my side of the story.

    I refuse to be held accoutable for other peoples wrongdoing. And anyone else who is being blackmailed into doing so should call whoever is doing it out and hold them accoutable.....

    There is always the Evil Counter Suit!

    Us it sparingly but visciously when necessary :)

     

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  14.  
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    Bob, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 10:34pm

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    You clearly don't understand how they do what they do. The thumbnail is generated in memory based on your search. Google is an index - a big text database. Your logic is flawed. None of these images exist on any Google server anywhere. Calling what they do "republishing" is just ill informed.

    We have a Google box at work which indexes our organization. The box just isn't big enough to store anything, nor would our Telecom guys allow anything on-site that created alot of traffic pushing images around.

    The best analogy I can think of is that it's like the a television network suing TV Guide for listing the dates & times of programs.

    And don't get me started on the legal industry in this country. The 'greed is good' folks go into law these days, not business.

     

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  15.  
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    NucWiz, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 10:46pm

    This is silly.

    Google (and all search engines) are like your best buddy from college that just surfs the net all day, every day. When you ask him, hey did you find any of "blank" today, he thinks about it and then pulls up some bookmarks and types in some web addresses from memory to show you what he found. Everything loads real fast because everything he saw that day is already cached.
    This service saves you a lot of time and you would be willing to pay for it, but you would be paying for the service of finding stuff and presenting it to you---not the rights to all the material he finds. The problem comes when the buddy gets fancy and starts presenting you with material extracted from websites instead of the actual websites. That material belongs to the website but could be presented "out of context" (if your buddy just showed you a folder of pictures he collected that day.)
    However, in the case of Google, they make the originating website very apparent so there can be no misunderstandings. The fault lies completely with two parties: the people who use the pics "out of context" (not respecting copyrights) and the people who own the pics but do not protect them sufficiently well, the former obviously more than the latter. For example, to protect your precious dirty pics a little better, why don't you require users to identify characters in a garbled picture before taking the "tour", thus keeping the good pics out of the hands of web crawling robots.

     

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  16.  
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    NucWiz, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 10:56pm

    Required Reading.

     

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  17.  
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    Stoolio, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 11:02pm

    Re: Required Reading.

    Why do these idiot porn sites sue Google when all they have to do is take the simple steps of not allowing Google to index their site. Oh that's right... might make more money sueing Google in front of an ignorant judge.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2006 @ 11:18pm

    Re: This is silly.

    Google says "here is what we think you asked for" and displays a small summary of what you wanted. In this case, the summary is a small image that is made sure not to be at any useful quality. The only thing that gives this case new value is the resolution of of cellphone images. Suddenly, wow, half of Google's images are perfect for a cellphone. But this should be negated by the fact that Google doesn't link to any image that a cellphone user doesn't already have access to. But the opposing lawyers found another unknown technology from which to attack from. aye!

     

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  19.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), Feb 21st, 2006 @ 11:56pm

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    Google doesn't just link to an image and thumbnail it for that session. They aren't like an ISP that just transmits the data ands might have a transitory cache.
    They republish images that they have copied and stored on their server for commercial gain.


    Which federal courts have already ruled is fair use...

    Also, since we know they for their own protection and odd little reasons removed entire companies from their database, they at some point might have some responsibility not to help promote illegal use of copyrighted materials.

    Again, federal courts have ruled that just because you moderate some aspect of your internet service, it does not mean you're responsible for the content. You can read more about the case here.

    Technology creates some wide gray lines about what is a copy of content vs just service transmitting data. BUT in this case.. I think a good law student can make the case that Google makes and uses copies of material for its own commercial use.

    And a better lawyer can make a case that Google is doing nothing wrong, and the courts have agreed. Yes, there is some gray area in that different district courts may find differently, but there's already quite a bit of precedent in Google's favor here.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Irony, Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 12:00am

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    Sorry Bob,
    But as has been stated, like a tribesman in your Little techie forrest you assume the world is the same all over.
    Your Google box has nothing to do with how Google images works. IF you had actually used the service you would know that unlike the text engine that does not store images just the HTML, the image search stores thumbnail copies of the images. Frequently taking you to a page that no longer shows or even still hosts the image, finding the entire image file gone when you request the full resolution version. This would not happen if it worked like you said in live time. IT would also require massive amounts of live bandwidth and computing time to do the image processing they do to create a safe-search based on skin tone patterns and keywords etc.

    Watching this week's news you would note that other Google technologies were going to quietly store private documents on google servers, vs creating a real P2P link. With the P2P being easier and much less server intensive one has to wonder what plans Google has for the massive amounts of personal data it hopes to store and index when people use Google desktop to search across machines.

    In theory Google may be violating copyrights by storing the cached versions of pages it does, because the original author has not granted secondary distribution rights and repeatedly these caches have lead to site corrections being circumvented.

    Google's rise to power and its flagrant disregard for privacy and copyright concerns will put it at the for front of some major technology law creation.

    I like the service and use it, and there is something to be said for going full steam ahead with out fear of legal action, that lack of fear will mean getting their hand slapped a few times.

    In this case at the very least, they should have blocked the content ASAP like they have for other cases. Its their reaction on first legal notice of the violations that may determine this cases ultimate outcome.

    Keep in mind while some talk about the greed of the attorneys, Google while defending its right to publish anything it indexes or caches is an active participant in a censored Internet in China.

    Google has made it clear that is guided by profits not some goal of an open accessible Internet.

     

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  21.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 12:04am

    Re: Good result

    The reason for this ruling is Google is making money from the ad placement on the offending site. If the adsense ads were not there, the result would likely have been different. As it stands now, Google is profiting from a site that has illegal images in two complementary ways, first, by placing paid ads on the site and second, by linking users to the site from which Google profits.

    Again, the only reason there are profits here are because this other site illegally posted the content. The legal issue is the other site posting the content, not Google posting ads on the site.

    That's like saying you should sue the advertisers in a newspaper when a reporter for that paper is caught plagiarizing.

     

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  22.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 12:09am

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    In theory Google may be violating copyrights by storing the cached versions of pages it does, because the original author has not granted secondary distribution rights and repeatedly these caches have lead to site corrections being circumvented.

    Except, again, the courts have ruled that this is fair use. So, no, it's not a copyright violation.

    Google's rise to power and its flagrant disregard for privacy and copyright concerns will put it at the for front of some major technology law creation.

    Flagrant is a bit strong. There are a lot of lawyers at Google who would disagree with you.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    anon, Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 1:03am

    Re: I think this makes some sense

    "Watching this week's news you would note that other Google technologies were going to quietly store private documents on google servers, vs creating a real P2P link. "

    This is completely untrue. Either you didnt read the articles, you misunderstood them, or you read a source that didn't know what they were talking about.

    The option you are referring to is off by default, and is part of a system that's sole purpose is to share your data between computers that may not both be on and on a network at the same time.

    Like a laptop you move around and a desktop at home. Theres no way to accomplish this without storing information on their servers, and this whole operation is turned OFF by default, and the user has to specifically turn it ON.

    All data is deleted after 30 days, so it is not permanently known, and no humans are involved in this at all.

    Best of all, if you dont like it, or dont trust it, its not part of your Operating System or anything, so you dont have to use it at all.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 8:21am

    No Subject Given

    Actually, I kind of buy the AdSense argument. Google is profiting from its collection of other people's content. It does have a serious responsibility to protect copyrights because it is profiting very handsomely from other people's content.

    Yes, I do understand and agree with fair use, but I believe that fair use puts the burden on Google. If you are going to use MY content (under fair use) you had better make damn sure you fully respect my copyrights even to the point of going beyond the basic legal requirements just to avoid any appearance of copyright violation.

     

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  25.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 10:09am

    Re: No Subject Given

    Actually, I kind of buy the AdSense argument. Google is profiting from its collection of other people's content. It does have a serious responsibility to protect copyrights because it is profiting very handsomely from other people's content.

    Yes, I do understand and agree with fair use, but I believe that fair use puts the burden on Google. If you are going to use MY content (under fair use) you had better make damn sure you fully respect my copyrights even to the point of going beyond the basic legal requirements just to avoid any appearance of copyright violation.


    Wait, but the fair use issue and the AdSense one are two totally separate things. The fair use applies to the image search engine, not AdSense. In the case of AdSense, it's a simple question of who's liable. As I said, if Google's liable for the content on a page where it places AdSense, then any advertisers in a newspaper is liable for plagiarism/libel in that newspaper.

     

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  26.  
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    Tommy Eise, Feb 22nd, 2006 @ 7:52pm

    Re: Good result

    If thats the case how come nobody is going after the web hosts that host these sites? They are making money from them too.. And how about ISPs, for allowing ppl access to the net to see them?
    In fact how about we charge gun makers with murder everytime someone is shot!

    p.s you comment is uber ridiculous. Google isn't placing the ads, the web site owners are! Google is simply providing a service! as they should.

     

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  27.  
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    [m]YSELF, Feb 23rd, 2006 @ 6:17am

    No Good result at all

    Google is not responsible of the content present on those sites that has ilegal images -or even legal content. They just provide a Service to the customers. Google is not placing paid aids by itself. It requires "webmaster" to suscribe the service so, the webmaster is the one "offending", Not Google.

     

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  28.  
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    Dave, Mar 13th, 2006 @ 7:02am

    Down with Google "The Evil Company"

    People you need to research before you comment. Google was notified about every image through the DMCA notices. In fact, as I looked they removed images.... Ooops, only the images that were not part of the adsense!
    Do you expect a copyright holder to go after a website in some foreign land that will never get any results?
    Here is the deal, people cannot really find the illegal copyrighted images without google. So when they type the searchwords, google gives them Pictures relevant to the words. Great. It gives them copyrighted images. That is great also. But when the copyright holder notifies google of the infringment through the legal means (DMCA), and does nothing about it, then google is in the wrong.

    A majority of the people want google as I am sure this holder does, all they are asking is google do it in a legal way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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