In a noteworthy ruling, the German Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe today decided that the use of picture search engines and the publishing of the resulting thumbnails and reference links does not violate German copyright law (I ZR 11/16 – Vorschaubilder III) . The case that had been brought by US adult content provider Perfect 10 against AOL Germany turned out favourable to Google in the end, whose picture search engine had been the tool in question.
Perfect 10, which had been described as a copyright troll by some tech publications, had brought several cases against Google‘s search engine and thumbnail picture listings in US Courts. In the German case, the company targeted AOL online, which used the Google picture search to provide pictures from the internet. The lists, according to the complaint filed at the District Court in Hamburg in 2009, included thumbnails of and the links to pictures that Perfect 10 had made available behind a paywall to its paying customers only. With Perfect 10 pictures finding their way to the public internet, presumably via its customers, they were picked up by Google‘s search engine and displayed on the AOL site.
Citing an EU precedence ruling, the Federal Court underlined that linking to copyright content which was freely available on the public internet could not be made dependent on pre-clearance of rights. Only if the copyright publication was obvious could the person linking to it be held liable.
“The EU jurisprudence relies on the consideration that the Internet is essential for freedom of information and speech and that linking supports this free exchange of information and is a part of the basic factor of a well-functioning net,“ the Court said in a press release, adding that this is also valid for search engines which make information accessible.
While commercial providers could be held liable in the event they did not check if works they provided access to were copyrighted, this was not the case for links to search engines and for search engines themselves, for the latter due to their “importance for the functioning of the internet,” the Court wrote.
Source: IP Watch