Court decision strengthens aggregators

California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Google’s use of thumbnails of copyrighted photographs in its image search application is “fair use” under copyright law. The case has been active since 2001 and involves an adult website and its images of nude women. The appeals court overturned a district court ruling, and while there are still other issues to be resolved, this decision adds considerable weight to case law that strengthens the position of web-based aggregators.

In the decision, the court wrote that there’s no doubt the display of such images is a direct infringement but concluded that the use of the images meets the standards required for fair use. Thus, they overturned an injunction against Google issued by the district court.

We conclude that the significantly transformative nature of Google’s search engine, particularly in light of its public benefit, outweighs Google’s superseding and commercial uses of the thumbnails in this case.

…In this case, Google has put Perfect 10’s thumbnail images (along with millions of other thumbnail images) to a use fundamentally different than the use intended by Perfect 10. In doing so, Google has provided a significant benefit to the public. Weighing this significant transformative use against the unproven use of Google’s thumbnails for cell phone downloads, and considering the other fair use factors, all in light of the purpose of copyright, we conclude that Google’s use of Perfect 10’s thumbnails is a fair use…We conclude that Perfect 10 is unlikely to be able to overcome Google’s fair use defense and, accordingly, we vacate the preliminary injunction regarding Google’s use of thumbnail images.

This is yet another court decision in favor of the disruptive innovations of Media 2.0, and it strengthens the business model of all aggregators that provide a significant public service by placing snippets of copyrighted material in one place to enable user choice.

On the one hand, the decision negatively impacts local media companies who are trying to protect their content, because their business model demands access to their content through systems owned by the company. On the other hand, however, it further opens the door to those who wish to aggregate anybody’s content to provide better community access to all local content.

We should be making the decision that such aggregators will be ours, not only those of the internet pureplay companies like Google.


  1. “This is yet another court decision in favor of the disruptive innovations of Media 2.0, and it strengthens the business model of all aggregators”

    - well, yes, except that all search engines are is aggregators. How are thumbmails of images any different than the snippets of text that are returned with normal text-based searches of web documents? If one is going to search for text, it is useful to have the results include some kind of snippet indicating the quality of the result — and only the person searching can make that determination. The same holds true for images… you search for images you’re going to need some indication of the returned result.

  2. You forgot to provide the link to Perfect 10. Here it is.


  1. […] Apparently, the case for “fair use” and aggregation has been made a bit more firm in California. Thumbnail images on Google are apparently “fair use” (a case was brought against them by a porn site…no jokes — you people with your filthy minds!). […]

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.