Perfect 10 publishes photographs of nude women and owns the copyrights in those images. Google displays thumbnails of those images in its image search results. Perfect 10 says this is infringement and obtains a preliminary injunction against the practice, but the Ninth Circuit, in Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc., case no. 06-55405 (May 16, 2007), reverses.
The most written about aspect of the decision is the court’s finding that Google’s display of thumbnail images in its image search results constitutes a non-infringing “fair use” of the images. Since Perfect 10 failed to show that it was likely to overcome Google’s fair use defense, the court reverses the grant of preliminary inunction.
Kevin O’Keefe of Lexblog says that the decision is “[f]urther evidence that Google is rewriting American copyright law (not saying good or bad).” It certainly gathered some attention, with bloggers writing about the case at How Appealing, Appealing in Nevada, and Decision of the Day.
Professor Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy calls it “Another Clash Between Virtual And Physical Perspectives in Internet Law,” and I agree that is one of the more interesting aspects of the case. I also think the decision does a very good job of distinguishing between the virtual and physical display of an image. Professor Kerr’s post links to a law review article of his on this issue of perspective.