The Ninth Circuit has weighed in on Perfect 10 v. Google (captioned Perfect 10 v. Amazon.com on the 9th Circuit case download website). The opinion is by Ikuta, who (IMO) got it right on the Fair Housing Council decision yesterday. It’s a long opinion, and I’m still working through it. But here’s a summary of holdings from my first quick scan:
- Liability for thumbnails — P10 made out a prima facie case of direct liability for Google’s display of thumbnails (affirming lower court) (but see fair use below)
- No direct liability for display on linking to full-size images (affirming lower court): Specifically,
“While in-link linking and framing may cause some computer users to believe they are viewing a single Google webpage, the Copyright Act, unlike the Trademark Act, does not protect a copyright holder against acts that cause consumer confusion.” (at 5772, pdf p.19)
- No direct liability for display of cache (affirming lower court)
- No direct liability for distribution of full-size image (affirming lower court) (distinguishing Hotaling v. LDS (4th 1997) & Napster)
- Fair use for thumbnails & vacated preliminary injunction for Google’s thumbnails (reversing lower court)
- purpose & character of the use: Google’s use was so highly transformative (“significantly transformative nature of Google’s search engine, particularly in light of its public benefit” at 5782/PDF p.29) that it outweighs superseding & commercial uses; the superseding uses were trivial because no evidence that downloads for mobile phone use had taken place. District Court’s determination that use of thumbnails in AdSense partner direction was not significant. Instead of weighing “slightly” in favor of P10 as the District Court found, this favor weighs for Google. (reversing Dist Ct)
- nature of the copyrighted work: photos were creative but previously published; this factor weighs “only slightly” to P10 (affirming Dist Ct)
- amount & substantiality: did not weigh in favor of either party because reasonable in light of the purpose of a search engine (affirming Dist Ct)
- effect on the market: no effect of thumbnails for full-size images (affirming Dist Ct); effect of Google’s thumbnails for P10′s cell phone market “remains hypothetical”; so this factor favors neither party (reversing Dist Ct)
- Possibility of contributory infringement & enunciated a new test (reversing & remanding) Citing Grokster, Napster, and Netcom, the court found the Dist Ct had erred in assuming that Google did not materially contribute to infringing conduct.
“Applying our test, Google could be held contributorily liable if it had knowledge that infringing Perfect 10 images were available using its search engine, could take simple measures to prevent further damage to Perfect 10′s copyrighted works, and failed to take such steps.” (at 5793 / PDF p.40)
Remanded for consideration of “whether Perfect 10 would likely succeed in establishing that Google was contributorily liable for in-line linking to full-size infringing images under the test enunciated today.”
- No vicarious liability (affirming District Court)
- Remand to do DMCA 512 analysis: The 9th said because there is now a possibility of contributory infringement, the District Court now has to do the DMCA 512(d) analysis to see whether Google met the qualifications for takedowns. The issues are whether, as P10 alleges, Google was not expeditious in takedown; and whether, as Google alleges, P10′s notice was not sufficient and did not comply with provisions.
- Amazon.com: No direct infringement for linking to Google’s thumbnails or P10′s fullsize images, and no vicarious liability (affirming District Court). However, the Napster “knowledge” test (“actual knowledge that specific infringing material is available using its system”) popped up here as in Google, and so 9th remanded to consider this contributory infringement and the DMCA safe harbor.
….update 5/18: Thinking about the decision some more, I still really appreciate the “public benefit” aspect of the language that I previously highlighted. Probably not something that most artists will be able to rely on, but very helpful for information and indexing resources — so librarians can breathe a sigh of relief.
Various other scholars & interested parties have pointed out their own highlights:
- Eric Goldman posted a brief comment on the case, pointing out that the court held that a plaintiff must disprove fair use, which Joe Gratz also pointed out. I was also amused to see his take on the case as difficult to teach.
- Joe Gratz listed several points of interest, including the public interest point that I like.
- John Ottovani posted also, pointing out that the court clarified that Section 512 is available for direct as well as contributory infringement. Hmm.
- Jason Schultz @ EFF calls the decision a “huge victory” and parses out some of his insights.
- Rebecca Tushnet points out the possible significance of footnote 8 for the Google Booksearch lawsuit, and also speculates on the transformativeness of search engines versus parodies.
- The Washington Post covered the case too.
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