American Photographic Artists Join The Lawsuit Against Google Books

from the but-of-course dept

For all the talk of how the MPAA and RIAA are extreme copyright maximalists, in my experience the one group of copyright maximalists who are the most extreme and unreasonable (and, often, uninformed) are photographers. This, of course, does not apply across the board. There are many, many photographers who are reasonable and clueful when it comes to copyright issues. However, in stories dealing with photographers, they often stake out the absolute most extreme positions, which is only marginally ironic, given that photographers often have some of the weakest claims on copyright around, given that the copyright only applies to the creative elements of their photographs, and for things like landscapes, that may only apply to things like framing and angle. Perhaps it’s because their copyrights tend to be so thin that some of them stake out such extreme positions (for example, they tend to be vehemently against any sort of orphan works legislation — an area of copyright law that many other copyright maximalists seem at least open to exploring).

Given that, the only thing really surprising about the news that the American Photographic Artists (APA) have joined the lawsuit against Google’s book scanning project (sent in by Brig C. McCoy) is the fact that it took them this long to get around to it.

American Photographic Artists (APA) is joining the 15 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Google. By joining the suit, APA alleges the “Google Book Search” program violates the copyrights of numerous photographers and other visual artists. The lead plaintiffs include: The American Society of Media Photographers, Graphic Artists Guild, Picture Archive Council of America, North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, National Press Photographers Association, Leif Skoogfors , Al Satterwhite , Morton Beebe , Ed Kashi , John Schmelzer , Simms Taback and Gail Kuenstler Taback Living Trust, Leland Bobbe , John Francis, Ficara, and David W. Moser.


Copyright protection and licensing images are two elements that ensure the sustainability of a professional photographer’s career,” notes APA National President, Theresa Raffetto. “APA membership consists of professional photographers who rely on these elements and is why APA advocates fearlessly for copyright protection. Holding Google Books responsible for their flagrant copyright infringement is something APA has been working on and we’re pleased to continue this fight in conjunction with the other plaintiffs.”

And, yes, I certainly recognize that seeing a single photograph in a book means that Google’s book scan may show the whole thing, but that’s because the photographer likely already licensed that image for the book in question. And, if you’ve ever seen the scans from Google books, you’d know, quite well, that there’s no way anyone would consider such a scan a reasonable substitute for the original image. For example, I looked at the scans from this photography book, and the quality is quite low. This is no substitute for the original in any way, shape or form. This just seems like a case of piling on based on copyright aggressiveness.

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Companies: apa, google

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Comments on “American Photographic Artists Join The Lawsuit Against Google Books”

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Malsperanza says:

Re: Re:

I hit submit too fast. Meant to say: It’s interesting that Morton Beebe is joining the suit against Google Book Scan, as he has a significant history with this issue. His lawsuit against the painter Robert Rauschenberg in the 1970s was very similar to the Prince v. Cariou case, except that it settled with an agreement (described in the above link) that included the requirement that Beebe receive a credit in all credit lines or identifying captions to the Rauschenberg work.

In my view, this might have been a really good model for one way for an artist to appropriate ethically: not by seeking permission, but by acknowledging credit for the embedded or appropriated material, which provides the viewer with a citation trail, just as scholarly footnotes are a means to avoid plagiarizing.

Unfortunately for Beebe, the settlement was unenforceable: Publishers, museums, and owners of the Rauschenberg image either ignored it or didn’t know about it.

The Prince v. Cariou decision is, to be sure, a clearer and more thorough solution.

anonymouse says:


All i can say is that the photographers are actually forcing themselves out of a job, madness.
There are millions and millions of photos all over the internet free to use with no license fees, why buy photos if you can use them freely. Also i suspect Google will use this against the authors that already have a difficult case to prove.
I agree with the other commenter though it would be nice to know the photographer of specific photos.

QuietgyInTheCorner (profile) says:

“Copyright protection and licensing images are two elements that ensure the sustainability of a professional photographer?s career” – this is not really correct. Those elecments are nearly irrelevent; what sustains a professional photographers career is consistantly and continuously creating more new photos that people like.
Many professionals “create things” as part of their job; they don’t get paid over and over for the same creation – they get paid ONCE. If they want paid again, they have to go out and create a new thing.
I “create” security systems. I get paid just once for each one. I don’t get paid again each time it’s used, or even each time “my creation” is sold. I get paid ONCE. If I want paid again, I have to create a new system.
(Anyone that asserts that this sort of “creation” is different than “artistic endevors” should go out and learn to do it – it is, in the hands of a truely creative person, truly an “art”.)

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Failed photographer

And I think a failed creator should just keep their mouth shut. Obviously, I’m assuming you are a failed creator just like you assumed Mike is a photographer. Also, hobby should ring a few bells for you. But I think you are among those that haven’t developed the ability to reason.

Speaking of it I’ve never seen your work Mike, do we have a link? /sarc

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

MPAA, RIAA Still Champs.

Seeing as how the APA is tight with the Copyright Alliance, an MPAA front, stating that the APA photographers are worse than MPAA + RIAA may be a distinction without a difference. The MPAA, through its Copyright Alliance proxy, had at least some influence in molding the APA into the rabid maximalists they’ve become.

The list of plaintiffs in the Google suit contains a few other Alliance members and sympathizers as well. The Graphic Artists Guild has been heavily influenced, if not completely captured by the Alliance; another of the plaintiffs, John Schmelzer, was the Guild president who initially made friends with the Alliance. It seems to me there are a number of fingerprints on the Google suit that belong to the MPAA.

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