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Photographers Group To Sue Google Over Book Deal

While Google waits for news about its proposed book search settlement with authors and publishers, it’s about to face a new legal challenge. The Financial Times reports that the American Society of Media Photographers and related trade groups are expected to file a new, class action lawsuit over the images that appear in the books Google has been scanning.

The Financial Times spoke with James McGuire, the attorney who’s leading the ASMP’s case, who said this:

Google is scanning in books and publications with visual images, which impedes the rights of the copyright holders of those images. We are seeking compensation for that…. We are not trying to crash the party or influence what is happening with the other class action. We are just trying to get the best possible result for this class of plaintiffs.

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

The lawsuit stems from a federal court decision that excluded photographers and creators of other visual materials in those books from participating in the existing authors/publishers settlement. According to the ASMP web site, Judge Denny Chin, who’s overseeing the case, said it would “put the entire settlement at risk” to include these groups, and suggested that “from the perspectives of fairness and efficiency, it makes more sense for (ASMP) to file their own lawsuit than to … delay this lawsuit.”

And that appears to be exactly what the ASMP is about to do.

Postscript, April 7: As expected, the ASMP and a number of other plaintiffs did file a class action copyright infringement suit against Google today in U.S. District Court. Here’s some of the relevant text from the ASMP’s news release:

The new class action goes beyond Google’s Library Project, and includes Google’s other systematic and pervasive infringements of the rights of photographers, illustrators and other visual artists.

This action by ASMP and its sister organizations was taken in order to protect the interests of owners of copyrights in visual works from the massive and organized copying and public display of their images without regard to their contributions and rights to fair compensation. According to ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik, “Through this suit, we are fulfilling the missions of our organizations and standing up for the rights of photographers and other visual artists who have been excluded from the process up to now. We strongly believe that our members and those of other organizations, whose livelihoods are significantly and negatively impacted, deserve to have representation in this landmark issue.” ASMP General Counsel Victor Perlman said, “We are seeking justice and fair compensation for visual artists whose work appears in the twelve million books and other publications Google has illegally scanned to date. In doing so, we are giving voice to thousands of disenfranchised creators of visual artworks whose rights we hope to enforce through this class action.”

Also, via the Graphic Artists Guild web site, we have a PDF of the complaint filed today.

Postscript #2: In a brief conversation this morning, Julian Perlman, one of the lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, clarified the text above that this lawsuit “goes beyond Google’s Library Project.” Perlman says the original suit by publishers and authors was focused on Google’s library book scanning efforts, while today’s suit also includes Google’s “Partner Program” (which allows book publishers to provide Google with copies of their books) and a similar partnership with publishers of periodicals for scanning of their works.

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