is in hot water over their Image Search function - a Los Angeles District Judge has ruled that is may violate US copyright law.
The adult website Perfect 10 took the search giant to court because Google Image Search
was indexing their content. Judge A. Howard Matz ruled that Google potentially infringes copyright law "by creating and displaying thumbnail copies of its photographs".
The original lawsuit was filed in November 2004 but in August 2005, Perfect 10 asked for an injunction to block Google from caching over 3,000 Perfect 10 photos and making them viewable outside the adult website.
It is worth noting that the drama is not over Google's spiders bypassing Perfect 10's subscription firewalls. Image Search finds the copyrighted images floating around the interweb because some users pay the monthly subscription, rip all the content and then reproduce it elsewhere for free.
Naturally, Google plans to appeal the injunction.
Michael Kwun, litigation counsel for Google, said "We anticipate that any preliminary injunction will have no effect on the vast majority of image searches, and will affect only searches related to Perfect 10."
Naturally, we needed to test this and we found that even with Google's SafeSearch disabled, a search query for 'Perfect 10' merely produced photos of various sporting events, such as gymnastics, where the phrase is used to describe the top score possible. There was no evidence of the adult content in question.
However, should Google ultimately lose this case, we can't help but feel it may open the floodgates for other companies to insist on their content being excluded.
Google Image Search indexes essentially all websites everywhere, including bit-tech
, and it can be a good way of bringing new visitors to one's site. With a limited amount of Perfect 10's floating around for free, surely that acts as the best kind of free advertising. Users can "try before they buy" and with watermarking on images, they know where to go should they want to subscribe for more content.
It appears the management at Perfect 10 disagree.