Guy Sues Google And Bing For Returning Photos Of Him In Search Results
from the when-all-you-have-is-a-hammer-handle... dept
Hypothetical: someone has posted photos of a person on a website, attached to text suggesting the individual had done something that, if true, the person probably wouldn’t want made public. The person in the photos would like these photos removed (and presumably the posts themselves). Who should they
approach sue about this?
1. The party that posted the photos and text?
2. The website hosting the photos and text?
4. And Bing… I guess.
The correct answer isn’t the easiest answer. Hence, the popularity of options 2-4. Section 230 protects the website from posts of its users (in most cases). And Google (and other search engines) are twice-removed from the original post and do nothing but provide search results from indexed websites.
Thomas Maczuzak feels Google and Bing should be responsible for these posts. After a few failed DMCA takedown requests (including one inexplicably targeting a photo he apparently uploaded himself), Maczuzak has decided to go federal. Now, it’s Maczuzak v. Google and Bing in a lawsuit that’s almost certainly on its way towards being tossed.
Multiple websites have published the copyright infringing images marked Exhibit ‘A’ though [sic] ‘F’ (hereafter, the “Images”) on their websites…
Great call-out on the websites (which are never listed by name in the lawsuit, but are liarscheatersandbastards.com, liarscheatersus.com, and cheaterreport.com — oh, and abb.com, which is apparently Maczuzak’s business and features the following photo — which is also Exhibit A in the list of images he wants vanished).
Here comes the changeup:
…and, Google.com and Bing.com each display the Images in its search results.
And there goes the lawsuit.
On information and belief, defendant has conducted acts of copyright infringement.
But they haven’t, as they didn’t upload, distribute or host the copyrighted photos.
Plaintiff is the authorized copyright agent for the infringing Images.
Plaintiff is the copyright owner of the Images.
Well… maybe. One of the photos listed in the exhibits looks like a selfie, so that’s probably Maczuzak’s.
And two are of his wife, which conceivably could have been taken by Thomas.
But the rest appear to have been taken by someone else, so chances are — unless Maczuzak has asked the photographers to assign him the copyright (unlikely, since they appear to be informal photos in social settings) — both of these statements may be false.
Even if Maczuzak decides to refile this lawsuit correctly (going after the parties who posted the photos to the listed sites), he still may not have a valid copyright complaint.
Maczuzak then goes on to turn this into some sort of hybrid defamfringement case.
Defendants use of the Images is directly resulting in severe harm to Plaintiff resulting in defamation, disparagement and invasion of privacy to Plaintiff.
As a direct result of Defendant’s use of the Images, Plaintiff has been severely harmed, ridicules [sic], and suffered direct loss to reputation, loss of business, shame and dishonor and egregious harm and damage.
Of course, none of these are the damages one suffers from copyright infringement. Damages in copyright infringement suits are tied to lost sales, whether theoretical or actual. In Maczuzak’s case, whatever market exists for the photos he may or may not own appears to be limited to vengeful posts at a few “cheaters” sites.
All Maczuzak is asking for (in his “prayer for relief”) is that Google and Bing delist the photos. Of course, he’s already asked Google once and was told no. (Takedowns were presumably sent to Bing as well, but since Bing doesn’t participate in this sort of DMCA transparency, it can’t be confirmed.) Now, he thinks a court’s going to make this happen.
While I sympathize with his desire to make the bad stuff go away, nothing about his approach is going to make that happen. The claims against Maczuzak aren’t something I’m going to speculate about, simply because it’s none of my business. In fact, I’d argue it’s no one’s business beyond the involved parties and (presumably) their attorneys. And while the internet has proven to provide an outlet for vindictive behavior, it’s hardly Google/Bing’s fault — not in the moral sense, and more importantly, not in the legal sense.