Image Search in Trouble?

Feb 22, 2006 - 11:56 am 0 by

Over at the SEW Blog I wrote about a recent ruling where Perfect 10 Photo Site Wins Injunction Against Google Image Search. I wrote;

Perfect 10, an adult photo site, has proven to the court that Google's image search thumbnail copies are a violation of U.S. copyright law. This past Friday, U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz, ruled that Google has violated the law "by creating and displaying thumbnail copies of its photographs."

Google plans to appeal the case, but the main reason documented as to why Google lost the case is two fold. First, Google monetizes image search with AdSense of those sites that have pirated the images of Perfect 10. Second, Google has image mobile search, which enables users to save a downsized version of the image to the phone, that image is "similar to what Perfect 10 offers as a subscription service through U.K.-based Fonestarz" and could hurt Perfect 10's revenue and earnings.

This can be major for image search as we know it. The distinction was about saving and monetizing other people's images.

We have three forums already buzzing on the topic, they include;

Both SEW and WMW bring up the point about having Photo 10 use the robots.txt file to exclude Google from indexing the images. Why bother suing, if you can tell Google not to index them. But I am sure that was discussed, the question is why didn't the court summaries write about it. For that, someone needs to read through the 48 page PDF ruling file that Gary Price posted.

Ian, our resident legal search guy, at SEW Forums writes;

Here is the crux of the decision. There are two major ways to display someone else's content on your site: 1) copying it from their server and displaying it from your server, and 2) displaying it directly from their server using frames or some from of an include or scraper.

Google argues that the test should be server based. What server is the information coming from? In the case of framed content, the content is coming from the original server.

P10 argues that the test should be the incorporation test, whereby the test is "what website does this information appear to be from to the user?"

The court acknowledges that both tests can be abused, but prefers the server test, since it's easier for webmasters to understand and preserves the interconnectedness of the web.

Ian then explains; "Finally, the court basically held that Google was likely to lose due to the thumbnail issue, but would probably win it's argument that they were not responsible for *other* peoples copyright infringments that image search dug up."

Very interesting and controversial court injunction, and this can play a major role in the future of image search.


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