November 14th, 2013

Judge Dismisses Authors Guild’s Copyright Lawsuit Against Google

A federal court judge has dismissed a long-standing lawsuit over the Google Books project, ruling that Google’s initiative to scan the contents of millions of books to make them searchable online falls within the bounds of fair use.

Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that Judge Denny Chin has dismissed a lawsuit filed eight years ago by the Authors Guild, which had claimed that Google was violating the copyrights of authors by scanning books without permission. A similar suit against Google, filed by photo trade groups, is still pending.

According to the Businessweek report, Judge Chin wrote in his ruling: “Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders.”

Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, told Businessweek: ““In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense.”

The decision doesn’t bode well for a nearly identical lawsuit filed against Google in 2010 by ASMP, the Graphic Artists Guild, the North American Nature Photographers Association, the Picture Agency Council of America, and the Professional Photographers of America. Those organizations want to prevent Google from scanning visual works in books without permission from copyright holders.

They filed suit against Google after Judge Chin refused to allow them to join the Authors Guild lawsuit.

Eugene Mopsik, executive director of ASMP, told PDN that he could not make specific comments about the ASMP claim against Google, which is still pending.

But he said of the dismissal of the Authors Guild lawsuit, “I think that it’s a terrible expansion of fair use [doctrine] to the detriment of individual rights holders.” He added, “I think it will further contribute to abuse of the fair use statute by other businesses. A lot of entities will look at this and say, ‘If Google is allowed to use [copyrighted] works this way, why can’t we?’”

Related:
ASMP, Other Trade Groups Sue Google (subscription required)
APA, NPPA Join copyright Suit Against Google
Judge Blocks Google’s Divide-And-Conquer Strategy in Big Copyright Cases

April 15th, 2013

APA, NPPA Join Copyright Suit Against Google

American Photographic Artists (APA) and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) announced today that they are joining an ongoing class action lawsuit against Google, alleging that the Google Books Search program is a violation of the copyrights of photographers and other visual artists.

Under the Google Books Search program, Google has been working with several libraries to scan books and periodicals and make the content available through search engine results. But a group of plaintiffs–including photographers and photo trade associations–filed a class action lawsuit in 2010 to stop Google from copying, scanning or displaying copyrighted photos and other visuals in printed publications without permission.

“I feel it is the NPPA’s responsibility to protect that principle of ownership, and not allow companies like Google to infringe upon our rights uncontested,” NPPA president Mike Borland said in a statement issued today by NPPA.

The lawsuit was spearheaded by American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). Other lead plaintiffs include the Graphic Artists Guild, Picture Archive Council of America (PACA), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and a number of individual photographers.

ASMP said when it filed the lawsuit that the goal is to make sure photographers are “fairly and reasonably compensated” when their works are distributed through Google search results.

In joining the lawsuit, APA national president Theresa Raffetto said in a prepared statement: “Holding Google Books responsible for their flagrant copyright infringement is something APA has been working on and we’re pleased to continue this fight in conjunction with the other plaintiffs.”

March 25th, 2013

Google Deeply Cuts Price for Nik Plug-in Suite

nik_silverefx

Nik’s Silver EFEX plug-in is part of the newly priced bundle.

Perhaps making up for the controversy it created when it discontinued the Snapseed Desktop app, Google today announced a significant price cut for the Nik plug-in suite. The Nik plug-ins have long been popular with photographers looking to expand the power of Photoshop, Aperture or Lightroom. Previously these plug-ins were in the $100-200 range with full six plug-in suites running $300 for Aperture/Lightroom and $500 for Photoshop/Elements.

However, today’s announcement reduces that price to $130 for the “Nik Collection by Google” and includes the Color Efex Pro 4, Dfine 2, HDR Efex Pro 2, Sharpener Pro 3, Silver Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2 plugins. Perhaps even more exciting is the fact that, according to the announcement, if you have bought any of the Nik plug-ins in the past, Google will be contacting you and offering you the ability to upgrade to the entire suite for free. If you have never tried the Nik plug-ins, you can visit niksoftware.com for a 15-day free trial of the Collection.

See the Nik Plug-in announcement on Google+ here.

September 19th, 2012

Google Buys Nik, Developer of Photo Editing Tools for Pros

Google has acquired Nik Software, the San Diego company that owns Snapseed photo editing software and other tools designed primarily for professional photographers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition is intended to help Google attract users to Google Plus, as part of a push to make that social media platform more competitive with Facebook. Facebook recently acquired Instagram to solidify its position as a platform for uploading and sharing images.

Snapseed and Instagram offer similar image editing and image-manipulation filters, but Instagram has 100 million users, compared to just 9 million Snapseed users, according to one published report. But Snapseed has more sophisticated editing tools than Instagram, according to New York Times columnist David Pogue. And last year, Apple named Snapseed “App of the Year” for the iPad.

Snapseed and other Nik products are currently available for use primarily on Apple devices. Now that Google owns Nik, Snapseed will soon be available for Android devices, significantly expanding the pool of potential users.

More information about the acquisition and its implications is available at The New York Times web site and at the NASDAQ web site.

PDN subscribers can also access reviews of Snapseed and other Nik software products through the links listed below.

Product Review: Nik Snapseed for iPad
Nik Announces Silver Efex Pro 2 Black-and-White Conversion Software
Nik Intros Color Efex Pro 4 Plug-in

August 13th, 2012

Google Changes Search Engine to Penalize Copyright Infringers

Starting this week, web sites that have received high numbers of removal notices for unauthorized use of copyrighted content will rank lower in Google’s search results, the search engine giant announced on its Inside Search blog on Friday.

Because Google is the number one search engine, this could result in lower traffic for sites that regularly post copyrighted material without authorization. “Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results,” according to the post by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow and the Senior VP of Engineering.

As The New York Times Media Decoder column notes, Google’s new ranking system will only take into account valid copyright-removal notices sent to Google by copyright holders themselves.

To learn how to inform Google about a copyright infringement on any Google product (including its image search, web search, Google + and YouTube), visit the Google support page titled Removing Content from Google.

Google’s blog also reports that the company now receives copyright removal notices for over 4.3 million URLs a month. That’s as many notices as it received in all of 2009.  However, these notices come from just 1,636 copyright owners (check out this chart on Search Engine Journal). Most of the notices are coming from large media companies holding many copyrights.

July 31st, 2012

With Much Ado About Public Service, Google Pleads Fair Use in Big Copyright Case

Arguing that its Google Books program makes fair use of copyrighted books by providing an indispensable public service, Google has asked a federal court to dismiss The Authors Guild’s claim that Google is infringing the copyrights of authors on a “massive” scale.

Google has scanned more than 12 million books–many of them still under copyright protection–as part of its Google Books program. Google indexes every word of the scanned books. It then makes snippets of the books available in search engine results, according to keywords entered by Google search engine users.

Google’s use of books is fair because it provides vast public benefits without any demonstrated harm to plaintiffs,Google asserts in its motion, filed in US District Court in New York City on July 27. (Emphasis is Google’s.)

The Authors Guild originally sued Google for copyright infringement in 2005, alleging the search engine company is scanning books without permission from authors for its own commercial gain. The guild says the Google Books program undermines the ability of authors to license and sell their books. It is seeking a court injunction to stop the Google Books program. The American Society of Media Photographers has filed a similar but separate lawsuit against Google in 2010.

In making its fair use argument, Google paints itself as a beleaguered public servant, prevented from advancing human knowledge by specious claims of copyright infringement.

“Google Books is an important advance on the card catalogue method of finding books,” the company says in its motion. “The advance is simply stated: unlike card catalogues, which are limited to a very small amount of bibliographic information, Google Books permits full-text search, identifying books that could never be found using even the most thorough card catalog. Readers benefit by being able to find relevant books. Authors benefit because their books can be more readily found, purchased, and read. The public benefits from the increase of knowledge that results.”

Google says that users cannot download the entire text of the books that show up in the search engine results. It only leads them to relevant books which they can purchase elsewhere if they wish.

The scanning and indexing of the books is fair use, Google argues, because the end use (thorough indexing of every word of every book) is “highly transformative”:  Google search engine users can search for information and get results showing snippets from all books containing the search terms. “Indeed, it is no overstatement to say that Google Books has transformed scholarly research,” the company says in its motion. “Google Books yields a literally unprecedented public benefit, and that benefit militates strongly in favor of a finding that Google’s scanning,indexing, and snippet display constitute fair use.”

Google does not mention that its apparent fit of civic virtue is driven by the potential to turn a profit by scanning and indexing the copyright works of authors. Those who use the Google Books index would effectively provide Google with personal information every time they did a search. That information could be sold to marketers, or used by Google to push highly targeted advertisements to Google search engine users.

But Google waves its hands to distract the court’s attention from all of that: “Google’s status as a commercial entity does not tip the scales against a finding of fair use…Much more significant is that a student or professor (or indeed anyone who finds a Library Project book on Google Books) is engaging in precisely the sort of use historically favored as noncommercial.”

Google and The Authors Guild had reached a tentative agreement in 2009 to settle the case. It would have allowed the Google Books program to continue if authors were allowed to opt out. But the judge in thee case rejected the agreement. He said the agreement would have to be ‘opt in’ for all authors (rather than opt out) in order to comply with copyright law.

Google has rejected an ‘opt in’ system as too cumbersome, so the Authors Guild suit has continued. The ASMP lawsuit is also pending.

Without commenting directly on Google’s motion, attorneys for The Authors Guild say they have filed their own motion for summary judgment. That motion is not yet available for public review, however.

Related stories:
Judge Block’s Google’s Divide-and-Conquer Strategy in Big Copyright Case
ASMP, Other Trade Groups Sue Google (subscription required)