Visual artists sue Google over copyright

Photographers, illustrators and other visual artists have today filed a class action suit against Google over alleged copyright infringement.

Undeterred by a ruling that they couldn’t join in with a similar lawsuit from authors, the American Society of Media Photographers and other trade associations decided to go it alone.

They, too, are objecting to the way Google has been scanning millions of books and images for its Google Library project without necessarily getting permission from copyright owners.

In fact, they’re going slightly further, in that this case goes beyond the Google Library project, and alleges a more general infringement of the rights of photographers, illustrators and other visual artists.

“This case is about fairness and compensation,” said James McGuire, founding partner of Mishcon de Reya New York, which is leading the case. “It’s only right that if someone uses something you create, you should be paid for it.”

The other plaintiffs include the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association and the Professional Photographers of America.

Under the deal Google agreed with the Authors Guild and other publishing groups, Google is to pay $125 million to create a books rights registry.

But the settlement has come in for heavy criticism for giving Google too much power over payments, and for allowing the company to use so-called orphan works – items whose creators or copyright holders can’t be found.

New York judge Denny Chin is currently considering whether to accept it, and is expected to make a decision soon. It’s taken six years to get this far, and Google must be praying it doesn’t take as long to settle the new suit.