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Google Sued by Photographers and Graphic Artists

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Photographer by λενα Λαγαρία on Flickr

Photo by λενα Λαγαρία on Flickr

As Google awaits word on whether its proposed $125 million settlement with authors and publishers over Google Book Search will be approved by a judge, the search engine giant has been slapped with another class action lawsuit. This time the plaintiffs are photographers and graphic artists who claim that the scanned book images of Google Book Search violate their copyrights.

Photographers and graphic artists had requested to join the class with authors and publishers but were denied by Judge Denny Chin, who is overseeing the other lawsuit.

In a comment to Publishers Weekly (PW), James Grimmelmann of New York Law School stated, “In a sense the artists are doing what the parties and Judge Chin all but invited them to do.”

Indeed, photographers and graphic artists were actually part of the original suit, according to Eugene Mopsick, president of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), one of the parties to the action, but when they got cut out of settlement talks, they “were left with little choice but to go away, or to file our own class action,” said Mopsick.

The other photography organizations involved in the lawsuit are the Graphic Artists Guild, the North American Nature Photography Association, the Picture Archive Council of America, and the Professional Photographers of America.

According to the complaint (PDF), the action is “designed to redress the most widespread, well-publicized, and uncompensated infringement of exclusive rights in images in the history of book and periodical publishing.” The suit seeks “monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief.”

Mopsick admits to PW, however, that a prolonged litigation of the legal issues involved isn’t necessarily what the groups are seeking:

What we’re interested in, in the long run is a place at the table, and an opportunity to be involved the creation of a system that will ultimately lead to compensation by Google or those others who use our members’ images online….What we want is a hand in crafting a system.

Google maintains that their book search feature “is fully compliant with U.S. and international copyright law.”

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April 8th, 2010 at 11:00 am