Photo Orgs Denied Entry into Google Settlement

Posted on 11/9/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

On Nov. 4, the motion of four creative industry groups and several individuals to join on the creators’ side of the Authors Guild et. al. v. Google was once again denied on appeal. Organizations that petitioned the court to intervene in the class action against Google included the American Society of Media Photographers, the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America and the North American Nature Photography Association. Chief among U.S. District Judge Denny Chin’s grounds for denying their request was its untimely nature.

Chin pointed out that this litigation began over four years ago, has received much media attention and provided ASMP, GAG, PACA and NANPA with ample opportunities to seek entry at an earlier date. In the last several months, the U.S. Justice Department became involved in an increasingly complex negotiation process. The revised settlement proposal, due in court today (Nov. 9), “represents thousands of hours of discussion, compromise and legal craftsmanship. Yet, the movants propose to intrude at the very end of this long process, and to add the question of millions of pictorial materials to the equation,” wrote Chin.

The judge saw such intrusion as prejudicial to a legal case that revolves around textual matter:  “In the context of an online database that is searchable using keywords, it makes sense to prioritize the rights to word-based material. It is true than the class could have included the owners of pictorial copyrights, as well, but the class members are not under an obligation to resolve every conceivable controversy under the auspices of this litigation.”

Chin also pointed out that his decision does not affect the ability of the four organizations—or anyone else—to bring a separate action regarding the use of pictorial material. However, whether or not the Google Books search engine would actually replicate any images that originally appeared in printed books remains questionable. The original text of the settlement does not address this issue, but a Google spokesperson told TechCrunch last week that photographs would not be displayed unless the book’s rights-holder also owns the copyright to the images.

In a statement that responds to the decision, ASMP said that Chin’s decision “deprive[s] the visual arts community of the opportunity to participate in crafting a settlement that would have given the public access to complete books instead of textual materials only.” ASMP, GAG, PACA and NANPA are currently evaluating whether or not to appeal Chin’s ruling.  

Copyright © 2009 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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