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Photographers hit Google Books with legal action

The American Society of Media Photographers is claiming copyright infringement

Google is facing legal action from the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) over the search engine's attempt to create an online library and store with millions of books.

The class-action copyright infringement lawsuit makes similar claims as the ones filed in 2005 by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) on behalf of authors and publishers.

Essentially, the ASMP objects to Google's wholesale scanning of millions of books for its Google Books search engine without always getting permission from copyright owners.

A difference is that the ASMP focuses on photographic and visual arts work in the books.

"Google has been involved in a massive campaign of unauthorised scanning and public display and distribution of works. A lot of those works are photographs and illustrations and they're doing it without authorisation of the copyright owners," said Victor S. Perlman, the ASMP's general counsel and managing director.

"I call that infringement."

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but the company's defence against the book scanning claim is that its activities are protected by the fair use principle because it only shows brief snippets of text in its search results.

In October 2008 Google, the Authors Guild and the AAP hammered out a controversial and complicated settlement proposal.

Despite a revision, the measure has been roundly criticised by a variety of prominent individuals, companies and organisations, including the US Department of Justice.

Judge Denny Chin from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York is currently evaluating the settlement proposal to decide whether to accept it.

Critics say the proposal gives Google too much power over prices and over orphan works, which are copyright books whose authors or publishers cannot be found.

The ASMP decided to file its own lawsuit because Judge Chin denied the group's objections and motions to intervene in the Authors Guild and AAP case, Perlman said.

See also: Sony praises Google's Book Search in court hearing


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