Google's years-long attempt to create an online library and store with millions of books will face yet another legal hurdle with the filing of a class-action copyright infringement lawsuit by the American Society of Media Photographers.
The 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 authorization of the copyright owners," said Victor Perlman, the ASMP's general counsel and managing director. "I call that infringement."
Unlike the Authors Guild and AAP lawsuits, this one has a broader scope beyond the Google Books project to scan millions of library books, and instead challenges what it considers other infringing Google activities and services, the ASMP said in a statement.
Asked for comment, Google said that Google Books operates within the law. "We are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with international copyright law," said Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker via e-mail. "Google Books is an historic effort to make all of the knowledge contained within the world's books searchable online. It exposes readers to information they might not otherwise see, and it provides authors and publishers with a new way to be found."
Joining the ASMP in the lawsuit are the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, as well as several individual photographers and illustrators.
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.