Google, Sex and Intellectual Property Rights

A US court has issued a preliminary injunction against Google in respect of its creation and display of thumbnails in its image search service. The court found that such action likely breaches the copyright in the original full-sized images and would not likely fall within any fair use exception. The plaintiff is a company called Perfect 10 – which produces a magazine and website featuring nude models (OK, its not sex but including the word in the title increases interest in the post). Apparently, by accessing the Google service using a mobile phone, users can save a copy of the thumbnail image to their phone, in competition to a commercial subscription service offered by Perfect 10.

While it is probably difficult or even impossible to operate an image search service if users cannot preview thumbnails of images, I also recognize that compressing an image can be viewed as the creation of a derivative work. Maybe a compromise here would be to look for HTML “tricks” or tools that can be utilized to block users from saving a copy of the image (or at least making it much more difficult for them to do so). A number of news sites already appear to be doing the same sort of thing in order to block bloggers from easily copying their stories.