TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Google Porn Site Battle Puts Internet Freedoms in Balance

Google Porn Site Battle Puts Internet Freedoms in Balance

Glenn Chapman (
Thu, 27 Jul 2006 12:48:03 -0500

by Glenn Chapman

Key Internet freedoms are under threat in a legal battle between
online search leader Google and pornography publisher Perfect 10, a
prominent Internet rights foundation said.

At issue in the landmark case being appealed to the San Francisco
circuit court of appeals is whether Google infringed on copyrights by
creating links to Perfect 10 pictures copied from its website and
posted elsewhere on the Internet, according to the Electronic Frontier
Foundation (EFF).

"The stakes are high and everybody is out expressing an opinion," EFF
attorney Fred von Lohmann told AFP. "Links are really the whole
enchilada when it comes to the worldwide web."

A Perfect 10 court victory would stifle the sharing of website links
whether it be by bloggers, search engines, online newspapers, or simply
people sending e-mail to friends, von Lohmann said.

"It will be the most important copyright decision for search engines in

The photos which Google provided links to were evidently copies made by
Perfect 10 website visitors and put on other websites.

The links turned up in the results of Google searches for images of
certain models, said von Lohmann.

In the case originally filed in the US district court in Los Angeles,
Perfect 10 also argued its copyright was infringed by thumbnail images
-- small versions of the pictures -- that Google generated in response
to the search queries.

Perfect 10 argued that Google was giving away for free copyrighted
"natural women" adult images that the pornography publisher was
charging for in magazine and website subscriptions.

The district court ruled in February that Google did nothing wrong by
making links to the images, but agreed with Perfect 10 that the online
search giant shouldn't provide thumbnail copies of the pictures.

Both sides appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
in San Francisco.

"We are confident that Google Image Search is legal under principles
of fair use and copyright law," Google's lawyer Michael Kwun said in a
response to an AFP inquiry on Wednesday.

Leading technology industry groups, EFF and the Library Copyright
Alliance have weighed in on the side of Google by filing amicus, or
"friend of the court", briefs supporting Google's position.

In recent filings, the two groups contended that Perfect 10 was aiming
at expanding copyright law to the detriment of the Internet.

Major motion picture, music recording, and photography industry
organizations with clear stakes in protecting copyrighted material
have countered with amicus briefs backing Perfect 10 in the case.

"Links are really the stuff that has made the worldwide web a
success," von Lohmann said. "It would be very chilling if any time you
sent a link you could be held responsible for copyright infringement."

The deadline for filing briefs with the court of appeals was several
weeks away. After the deadline the court will schedule a hearing at
which rival attorneys will make their arguments.

Von Lohmann didn't expect a judgment until early next year.

Copyright 2006 Agence France Presse.

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