Google Books Facing Suit from Visual Artists

Google’s ambitious digital library project—wherein it is scanning the contents of millions of books in order to make them available via the Internet—looks like it may be facing yet another legal challenge. Today, the American Society of Media Photographers and other industry groups representing visual artists announced they have filed a class action lawsuit against Google over the project, claiming it infringes on copyrights of photographers and other visual artists by reproducing and redistributing their work without permission.

“We are seeking justice and fair compensation for visual artists whose work appears in the twelve million books and other publications Google has illegally scanned to date,” said ASMP general counsel Victor Perlman, in a statement. “In doing so, we are giving voice to thousands of disenfranchised creators of visual artworks whose rights we hope to enforce through this class action.”

The new ASMP lawsuit is analogous to the 2005 suits from authors’ groups and publishers over the Google Library Project; that suit is currently awaiting approval of a $125 million settlement agreement that would enable Google to digitize and sell copies of millions of out-of-print titles. The groups of photographers and visual artists tried to join that suit, but the request was denied by the court. So they’re launching their own case instead. The ASMP suit doesn’t just cover the Google Digital Library; it also target Google partnerships that have some publishers permitting Google to include their titles in Google’s book search service.

Google’s proposed $125 million settlement with publishers mostly excludes visual works like photographs. It also faces opposition from other Internet industry giants like Amazon, Yahoo, and Microsoft, and even the U.S. Justice Department has expressed concerns over legal issues with the settlement.

Other groups participating in the new class action suit include the Graphic Artists Guild, the North American Nature Photography Association, and the Professional Photographers of America, along with a number of individual photographers and illustrators.

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