The Federal Court of Justice in its decision of April 29, 2010 (full text of the opinion available May 19, 2010) in case number I ZR 68/08 regarding German copyright law (applying UrhG §§ 19a, 51 Abs. 1 Satz 1, § 97) held that thumbnails in Google Image Search do not infringe copyrights in Germany.
Google in this case would only have been liable for copyright infringement only if it had published such thumbnails knowing that the copyright owner had denied consent to publish them.
See the German-language Press Release of April 29, 2010 of the Court at http://www.beckmannundnorda.de/serendipity/index.php?/archives/232-BGH-Wiedergabe-von-Thumbnails-in-Google-Bildersuche-ist-keine-Urheberrechtsverletzung-Vorschaubilder.html.
The text of this BGH court decision just became available (May 19, 2010) via Beckmann und Norda Rechtsanwälte at
As written at Jacqui Cheng at ars technica, Google triumphs in US trademark, German copyright cases:
"The German Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Google Image Search, saying that the service's thumbnails don't infringe on anyone's copyrights.... In addition to the victory in Germany, Google also won a case in the US, with the judge saying that AdWords did not infringe on Rosetta Stone's trademark....See also:
This [latter] ruling is similar to one recently made in the European Court of Justice ... [where the] court said that Google couldn't be held liable for counterfeit retailers buying up Louis Vuitton-related keywords, and that the sale of those keywords should be left open to third parties. "
- The IPKat BGH: Google's image search is no copyright infringement
- Konrad Lischka at the Spiegell, Googles Bildersuche darf Mini-Fotos zeigen
- Karin Matussek at Bloomberg Business Week
- Ulrich Schulte, Bundesgerichtshof: Keine Urheberrechtsverletzung durch Vorschaubilder?