Germany Finds Google Images A Violation Of Copyright Law
from the needing-safe-harbors dept
US courts have recognized, reasonably, that an image search engine like Google’s is not infringing on copyrights when it displays thumbnail images as a result of a search. However, it appears that German courts are not quite so understanding. Two new rulings in Germany say that thumbnail images are, in fact, copyright infringement. The German court’s reasoning was: “It doesn’t matter that thumbnails are much smaller than original pictures and are displayed in a lower resolution. By using photos in thumbnails, no new work is created.” While I’m certainly not as familiar with German copyright law as I am with American copyright law, this statement still doesn’t make that much sense.
The purpose of copyright law shouldn’t just be concerned with whether or not a new work is created, but the purpose of what’s being done. So it’s difficult to see, for example, how a thumbnail that links to the original can possibly do any harm. If the “artist” behind an image doesn’t want it found in Google, don’t put it online. If the complaint is that someone else put the image on Google allowing it to be indexed, that’s not Google’s fault, but whoever put it online. Suing Google makes little sense — and a judge finding against Google makes even less sense. Google has made it clear it intends to appeal, but it’s troubling that a court would rule this way in the first place. It suggests, at the very least, a less than complete understanding of how an image search engine works. It also should raise questions about whether or not this ruling effectively makes any sort of inline hotlinking of images copyright violations as well.