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Germany

Google Loses Court Battle Over Image Searches

A German photographer and an artist won lawsuits against Google for displaying thumbnails of their works in search results without permission. Google will reportedly appeal the ruling.

Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif

Should Google be allowed to display copyrighted images?

Google cannot display copyrighted works as thumbnails without an owner's permission, a court in the northern German city of Hamburg ruled on Tuesday, Oct 14.

Since the photos in Google Image Search are displayed as thumbnails, no new work is created, which leaves no justification for displaying the copywrited works without permission, the court ruled.

"It doesn't matter that thumbnails are much smaller than original pictures and are displayed in a lower resolution," the court said in its ruling.

Artists complain

Google's image search function brings up often millions of thumbnails of photographs, pictures and other graphics culled from Internet sites. Google always has a disclaimed next to images that they might be scaled down and also might be subject to copyright.

But for some that is not enough. They do not want their images to show up in the search engine at all. German photographer Michael Bernhard and artist Thomas Horn brought cases against Google in Germany to protest the display of their copyrighted images.

Horn, whose comic drawings were displayed on Google, has reportedly asked for about 1,300 euros plus interest to compensate for his "stolen pictures."

Google likely to appeal

If the ruling ends up keeping all copyrighted images from being displayed in Google, that "capitulates us into the digital Stone Age," Kay Oberbeck, spokeswoman for Google Germany was quoted by the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper as saying.

Google will appeal the ruling, the newspaper reported. But if it is upheld, it could mean that Google would have to turn off its Image Search function, the Hamburger Abendblatt reported.

The court suggested that Google replace thumbnails of pictures with a text describing them, something Google said is not a practical, user-friendly solution.

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