Home Verboten: Google Loses German Copyright Cases Over Thumbnails

Verboten: Google Loses German Copyright Cases Over Thumbnails

Today, a regional court in Germany ruled that Google is violating German copyright law by displaying thumbnail previews of copyrighted images. German photographer Michael Bernhard and cartoonist Thomas Horn had sued Google and demanded that their images be removed from Google’s index. According to the judge at Hamburg’s regional court, “no new work is created” by displaying thumbnails.

Google, of course, has no way of discerning whether an image in its index is copyrighted or not. Based on this decision, we would not be surprised if Google decided to block image search for German users. However, we also assume that Google will try to appeal this decision.

German vs. U.S. Law

In the U.S., Google has been involved in similar cases, including the infamous Perfect 10 v. Google case, where Perfect 10 claimed that Google’s image previews were violating Perfect 10’s copyright. While the U.S. courts first granted Perfect 10’s requests to remove the images, Google won its appeal because the court argued that Google’s use of the thumbnails was to be considered fair use.

Robots.txt Anybody?

We would think that photographers and cartoonists would be happy to have their images featured and promoted in Google’s image search. Also, a quick edit of a website’s robot.txt file would have prevented Google from indexing the images in the first place.

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