NPPA Joins Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Google

Apr 15, 2013 Advocacy

DURHAM, NC (April 15, 2013) – The National Press Photographers Association has joined with 15 other plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Google, NPPA's general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said today.

The Federal suit alleges the “Google Book Search” program violates the copyrights of numerous photographers and other visual artists. 

The suit claims that Google engaged in “widespread, well-publicized, and uncompensated infringement of exclusive rights in images in the history of book and periodical publishing,” in violation of the Copyright Act. These allegations of infringement stem from Google’s creation and operation of its Google Book Search program. The lawsuit seeks monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief.

The 49-page complaint, submitted by attorneys Mishcon de Reya, New York LLP, and Ronny L. Kurzman was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

The complaint states, “Google’s acts have caused, and unless restrained, will continue to cause irreparable injuries to Lead Plaintiffs and the Class members through: continued copyright infringement and/or the effectuation of new and further infringements of the Visual Works contained in Books and Periodicals; diminution of the value and ability to license and sell their Visual Works; lost profits and/or opportunities; and damage to their goodwill and reputation.”

The lead plaintiffs include The American Society of Media Photographers; Graphic Artists Guild; Picture Archive Council of America; North American Nature Photography Association; Professional Photographers of America; American Photographic Artists; Leif Skoogfors; Al Satterwhite; Morton Beebe; Ed Kashi; John Schmelzer; Leland Bobbe; John Francis Ficara; David W. Moser; and the Simms Taback and Gail Kuenstler Taback Living Trust.

"The NPPA takes the issue of copyright violation very seriously," said NPPA executive director Mindy Hutchison. "In our primary role as an advocate for visual journalists, it was only natural to join with others to challenge this widespread and ongoing infringement. It is our intention to stop this practice, and protect the rights of our visual journalists, along with their ability to control, license, and sell their own images."

NPPA has been a vocal critic of Google, particularly of the company's continued efforts to digitize entire libraries and make that content available over the Internet. The complaint, submitted by attorneys Mishcon de Reya, New York LLP, and Ronny L. Kurzman, contains exhibits showing specific photographs and illustrations which, despite having been registered with the United States Copyright Office, were scanned and displayed, without permission, into Google Book Search, by Google, in violation of those copyrights.

"As a visual journalist myself, I know the importance of owning my own work and controlling how, when, and why those images are used," added Mike Borland, NPPA's president. "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."