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Germany high court rules Google images do not violate copyright laws

Germany's Federal Court of Justice [official website, in German] ruled Thursday that the use of thumbnail preview images pulled from websites by Google [corporate website; JURIST news archive] is not a violation of copyright law. The original lawsuit was brought against Google by an artist who had images of her work pulled from her website and displayed on Google's image search index without her express permission. The court stated [press release, in German] that because the plaintiff had not used adequate protections on her website to block Google from pulling the data in question, she was implicitly agreeing to the use of her images by other websites. The court also indicated that in light of last month's ruling [JURIST report] at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] that, even if they had found that Google's use of the images constituted a violation of copyright law, Google would only have been liable for damages if someone posted the artist's images without her consent. Managing counsel for Google Germany, Arnd Haller, said [blog post] that with the court's ruling "News websites on the Internet, online providers of pictures and posters, artists, photographers, designers and many more who depend on the web for their livelihoods can go on using the service as a significant distribution platform."

The German copyright case was one of several pending against Google. Earlier this month, several visual artist organizations in the US filed a class action suit [JURIST report] alleging copyright infringement resulting from the company's book scanning project [Google books]. Last month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] urged a federal court to reject [JURIST report] the proposed class action settlements [Authors Guild backgrounder] in a separate copyright suit [case materials] between text authors and Google due to copyright and antitrust concerns. In February, a federal judge heard arguments [JURIST report] on the proposed settlement but did not indicate when a ruling can be expected.

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