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16 May 2010
Last month the American Society of Media Photographers and other professional photographers filed a class action suit against Google that bears a startling, dare I say, near photographic resemblance to the Authors Guild vs. Google class action. The latter case came to a proposed settlement that, in the opinion of many people including me, would be a breathtakingly aggressive rewrite of global copyright law in favor of Google and the members of the Authors Guild. (I'm a member, but they've never asked me or any other member whether we want them to do so.) The settlement has been in and out of court for the past couple of years, having provoked objections from parties ranging from the US Department of Justice to the State of Connecticut to the Federal Republic of Germany to the Open Book Alliance.
The Authors Guild only includes authors, not photographers, which means that photographers would not get on the Google royalty gravy train should the settlement be approved. This case is clearly intended to fix that problem, since the claims it makes against Google, that they're scanning books with the photographers' pictures without consent and might sell them, are just like the ones in the authors' suit. The photographers' suit was filed in the Southern District of NY, the same court as the Authors Guild suit, and was not by accident assigned to judge Denny Chin, the same judge. I expect the photographers hope their suit is consolidated with the authors so the gravy can flow to all equally. The copyright treatment of photographs is slightly different from that of text, but as far as I can tell, for the works in this case, pictures published in books and magazines, there's no difference.
So far Google's only response has been to ask for more time to respond, with the plaintiff's agreement. I would guess that means they're already negotiating, but we won't know until the response deadline, which is this Friday the 21st.
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