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Photographers Launch Class Action Lawsuit Against Google


Google Books, an ambitious project to make millions of physical books searchable online, found itself in yet another legal battle today after photographers followed in the footsteps of authors by launching their own class action lawsuit for copyright infringement.

In 2005, the Authors Guild of America sued Google for copyright infringement due to the fact that Google was scanning massive amounts of copyright material and storing them in its private database. Though Google entered into a settlement agreement in 2008, the judge presiding over the case would not allow other photographers’ groups to be involved in the case.

For this reason, American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) filed its own separate class action lawsuit against Google today, and is joined by a number of other organizations including the North American Nature Photography Association, the Picture Archive Council of America, and Professional Photographers of America.

Like the Authors Guild, the ASMP’s lawsuit deals with the fact that Google is scanning, indexing, and storing copyright work without permission of the copyright holders. The difference is that this new lawsuit focuses on photographs and visual works rather than written text. In a press release posted on its website, the ASMP states,

The suit […] relates to Google’s illegal scanning of millions of books and other publications containing copyrighted images and displaying them to the public without regard to the rights of the visual creators […]

We strongly believe that our members and those of other organizations, whose livelihoods are significantly and negatively impacted, deserve to have representation in this landmark issue […]

We are seeking justice and fair compensation for visual artists whose work appears in the twelve million books and other publications Google has illegally scanned to date. In doing so, we are giving voice to thousands of disenfranchised creators of visual artworks whose rights we hope to enforce through this class action.

Furthermore, the ASMP states that the lawsuit is not limited to Google’s Library Project, but includes “Google’s other systematic and pervasive infringements of the rights of photographers, illustrators and other visual artists.”

While this is a pretty vague statement, we reported last month that Google had begun including copyrighted photographs from websites such as Flickr in its Maps application.

What are your thoughts on Google’s projects and how they impact copyright holders? Have photographers’ lives been “significantly and negatively impacted” by Google’s activities?

Image credit: In Google We Trust by sonicbloom