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Perfect 10 Sues Microsoft for Copyright Infringement

Perfect 10 Sues Microsoft for Copyright Infringement
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Aug 9, 2007 9:45 AM PDT    Text size: 
SAN FRANCISCO — Perfect 10 President Norm Zada filed suit against Microsoft yesterday, alleging the company's search engine allows users access to thousands of stolen images and passwords to Perfect10.com.

Zada told XBIZ that he first began sending Digital Millenium Copyright Act notices to Microsoft in October 2004 and after several attempts to settle the issue, filed suit yesterday for monetary compensation and some kind of effort to filter stolen content from Microsoft's MSN search engine.

"These search engines come along and they basically knowingly copy stolen material from [websites] and then aggregate it all together into a convenient one-stop shop for stolen material," Zada said.

Zada said he has experimented with search terms to see what content appears using both MSN and Google search, and saw that many of the images that Google displays are missing from MSN's results. This, he said, means that the companies have the ability to filter their images search results, but choose not to.

"Google and Microsoft are both incredibly sophisticated companies," Zada said. "They absolutely unequivocally have the ability to make sure stolen material does not appear on their systems, or if some slips through it's only a small amount."

Zada said that Microsoft knows the third-party sites it links to do not own the rights to the photos they display, therefore it should not be copying pictures from websites that clearly don't own them and posting them in its image search results.

He said he did not specify in the suit how much money he is asking for from Microsoft.

"The only thing I'm asking for is some kind of reasonable justice on part of the legal system to understand that copyright holders have the right to have control over their material," Zada said, "and that these gigantic corporations can't go around knowingly making copies of pirated material without permission."

Zada told XBIZ he also is suing Microsoft for accepting advertising money from illegal file-sharing sites that contain stolen images, movies and software.

"You can't sue these sites directly," Zada said. "Even if you can sue them they reemerge with a different registry. It's like having a bunch of thieves out there that you can't find and you can't sue."

Zada said because he can't get the copyright infringers directly, he must go after their enablers — the search engines and payment processors allowing the sites to stay in business.

Zada also sued Visa and MasterCard, asserting that the companies were liable for copyright and trademark infringement because they continued to process credit card payments for infringing websites after he had notified them of copyright violations.

The case was dismissed in early July and Zada said he now awaits a full en banc hearing. He said the recording industry, movie studios and photographers each have written an amicus brief — showing support and interest in the case — and expects the battle to reach the Supreme Court.

In a similar suit Zada filed against Google, alleging copyright infringement for displaying Perfect 10 thumbnails in search results, federal appeals court Judge Sandra Ikuta ruled in May that Google's fair use argument won over Zada's copyright claims.

Zada said he has had to lay off many of his employees due to the legal action Perfect 10 has taken in the past several years, and had to shut down the magazine after losing $55 billion from product theft and legal fees.

"Everybody thinks I'm this litigious guy," Zada said. "I would like nothing better than to enjoy my life and not deal with lawyers."

A Microsoft representative was unavailable for comment at press time.

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