Google Sued Over Alleged Copyright Infringement

Rhett Pardon
WASHINGTON — Agence France Presse has sued Google for $17.5 million, claiming the search engine is displaying photos, headlines and story leads on without authorization or compensation.

Like other wire services, AFP sells subscriptions; it does not give its products and services away for free.

But Mountain View, Calif.-based Google just takes them, in both English and French, and has refused AFP’s demands to stop for nearly three years, according to the suit filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Paris-based news organization is seeking an injunction and statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement and damages of $25,000 for each time Google removed copyright management information, which is at least another $2.5 million.

AFP said in its suit that Google has ignored requests to take down its material and as of the filing date of the lawsuit "continues in an unabated manner to violate AFP's copyrights."

It is not the first time Google has been served with claims of copyright infringement.

In November, online adult company Perfect 10 filed a suit against the search engine, claiming it provides surfers with unauthorized links to images of Perfect 10’s nude models.

In the ongoing suit, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Perfect 10 said Google provided links to at least 800,000 images and that it deprived it of potential membership fees and advertising revenue.

Perfect 10 said it sent Google 27 formal requests to cease with its practice.

The filing described how Google searches pick up photos from “stolen content sites” or websites that steal images and allow surfers to avoid paying subscription or membership fees for members-only sites.

In a legal case similar to Perfect 10’s, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that search engines cannot display full-sized images without linking back to the website upon which they were posted.

The court, however, ruled they can display thumbnails without infringing copyrights in Leslie A. Kelly vs. Arriba Soft Corp., No. 00-55521.

Google displays its results in thumbnails but links to websites that Perfect 10 says illegally display full-sized images.