German Court Comes Down On Google’s Thumbnail Images

    October 13, 2008

Either Google Germany’s lawyers aren’t up to snuff, or they’re just stuck in a really hostile environment.  Regardless, a new report indicates that two court rulings would have Google stop showing certain thumbnail images in its search results.

Karin Matussek writes, "Google’s preview of a picture by German photographer Michael Bernhard violates his copyrights, the Regional Court of Hamburg ruled, his lawyer Matthies van Eendenburg said in an interview today.  Thomas Horn, who holds the copyrights on some comics that were displayed in Google search results, won a second case, court spokeswoman Sabine Westphalen said in an e-mail."

Google Logo

This appears to mean that the court expects Google’s algorithms to discern what’s copyrighted and what’s not.  Or perhaps Google’s supposed to hire a great many human researchers.  One other possibility: completely discontinuing image search in Germany.

Google’s allowed to appeal the rulings, however, and this should give the company time to reexamine its legal teams.  It’s even possible that a sort of public outcry will build, since some copyright owners are bound to be afraid of experiencing huge drops in traffic.

Meanwhile in Germany, Gmail remains Google Mail, a town’s leaders still dislike Street View, and the federal government seems to view Chrome as "risky."