Judge Martz Needs Internet Smartz

by on February 23, 2006

Having read the Perfect 10 v. Google decision, I agree with Fred von Lohmann’s analysis of it: this is a basically solid decision that goes off the rails because Judge Martz didn’t seem clear on the relationship between Google Image Search and AdSense.

Here’s how those two products work: Google Image Search is a search engine for images. It does not serve ads. AdSense is a third-party ad program whereby any website on the Internet can allow Google to place ads on their site in exchange for a cut of the revenues. The relationship between these programs is… well, there isn’t really a relationship, except they’re both Google products. Sometimes users find infringing pages using Google Image Search that have AdSense ads on them. The court decided this was evidence that Google Image Search was profiting off of infringement.

But that’s ridiculous. Google Image Search doesn’t give any particular preference to web sites that serve up AdSense ads. And AdSense serves up ads regardless of what search engine brought the user to the site. If Google cancelled Google Image Search altogether, there’s little reason to think AdSense would suffer financially–users would likely find the same pages using other search engines.

If this standard is to be taken seriously, search engine companies are going to have to divest themselves of all other online services that might involve infringing copyrights. Yahoo! will have to sell off GeoCities. Microsoft will have to stop selling IIS, its web server.

Google Image Search and AdSense are unrelated products. It makes no sense to consider them as a single product for the purposes of fair use analysis. That should be obvious to anyone with substantial experience using the web. It seems like a reasonable assumption that Judge Matz isn’t the most Internet-savvy guy around.

Update: Oops! It looks like I imagined an “r” in Judge Matz’s name. Sorry!

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