Thursday, June 21, 2007

Search Engines May Face Massive Liability from Partnering with Internet Thieves

According to Dr. Norm Zada, President of Perfect 10, Inc., a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has raised the specter that search engines that continue to knowingly partner with or assist hundreds of Internet thieves may subject themselves to potentially massive liability for copyright infringement. At risk are most of the major search engines: Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Amazon, and, all of whom continue to accept advertising from and link to websites that are cumulatively selling billions of dollars worth of stolen movies, TV shows, songs, images, and software, for as little as $5 a month.

In an opinion in a case brought by Perfect 10, Inc., the Beverly Hills-based publisher of Perfect 10 Magazine and website against Google, the Appeals Court concluded, “there is no dispute that Google substantially assists websites to distribute their infringing copies to a worldwide market and assists a worldwide audience of users to access infringing materials.”

The Appeals Court went on to suggest that if search engines continue to link to or otherwise facilitate infringement after receiving notice, they could be found liable for copyright infringement. According to Dr. Norm Zada, a former Stanford professor and President of Perfect 10, Inc., most search engines are doing just that, and in a big way.

“I have personally provided Google, MSN, Yahoo!, AOL, and Comcast, with repeated notices regarding the theft of close to 15,000 Perfect 10 images, as well as billions of dollars worth of stolen movies and songs,” says Zada. “But the search engines seem to have disregarded my notices. As far as I can tell, they are turning a blind eye to massive theft. If the search engines would simply remove such thieves from their search results, they would greatly help copyright holders.”

Google’s response to notices of infringement will likely be a significant factor not only in the case filed by Perfect 10, but also in the recent copyright case filed against Google and YouTube by Viacom. According to Zada, “Google’s thieving advertising affiliates sell pirated copies of Viacom’s full-length movies, including just-released movies, full-length movies owned by other studios, and full-length songs. In contrast, YouTube offers primarily clips. A lot is at stake for both copyright holders and search engines. The damage to copyright holders from the theft of virtually every marketable full-length movie, song, and image, is immense.”

Zada also noted, “Google is partnering with hundreds of other pirate websites to display Google ads next to millions of celebrity images without authorization. Google currently has ads next to about 10,000 stolen Perfect 10 images and won’t stop,” says Zada. “Hopefully they won’t get away with it.”

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