Monday, May 24, 2010

Thumbnails in Google Image Search Do Not Infringe Copyrights in Germany

The Federal Court of Justice in Germany (also sometimes called the Federal Supreme Court), the German Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), is Germany's highest appeals court in non-constitutional matters. There is a different, special Federal Constitutional Court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, for constitutional cases.

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

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....

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. "
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