Imperfect Lawsuits: Perfect 10 v. Google (and Visa and …)

“Perfect 10” is an unsuccessful California pornography business that has branched out into the litigation business with the same results. The company is justifiably upset that disreputable pornographers are stealing their copyrighted photos for their web sites. (We know you’re shocked to hear that some pornographers are disreputable, but we call ’em like we see ’em here at Overlawyered.) But unsatisfied with the results of suing fly-by-night operators, they tried to sue the billing services these sites used. These suits were mostly shut down; a federal court held that billing services that aren’t responsible for web site content are not, well, responsible for web site content. (A billing service that did regulate content did not fare so well. Perfect 10 Inc. v. Cybernet Ventures Inc., 213 F. Supp. 2d 1146.)

Then Perfect 10 took on credit card companies Visa and MasterCard. The credit card companies noted that they processed millions of transactions a day, and could not do so economically if they had to be responsible for enforcing property rights of third parties, and compared it to a company “send[ing] a notice to the electric company supplying power to people infringing its rights and say ‘shut them off.'” The Northern District of California threw those cases out.

With this track record, you’d think the media would be more skeptical now that the company has sued Google for providing a search engine with which someone can find web sites that infringe Perfect 10’s copyright, instead of giving company president Norman Zada an unrebutted platform, but the idea of a lawsuit over pictures of naked women is apparently too titillating to resist. Because, of course, a search engine shouldn’t just index the web, but should have intelligent spiders that test the propriety of the web sites indexed. Perfect 10 seems to be trying to get around this problem with their lawsuit by alleging that Google prioritizes search engine results for participants in its Ad Sense program and is lying to the public when it says its search engine results are objective. One wonders why Google doesn’t more prominently feature this benefit of sending them money, as well as about the Rule 11 basis for this allegation. Meanwhile, I guess we should be happy that Bo Derek never sued Perfect 10. (Wendy Davis, “Adult Publisher Sues Google For Copyright Infringement”, MediaDailyNews, Nov. 23; AP, Nov. 23; Lisa Baertlein, Reuters, Nov. 22; Chris Gaither, “Porn Firm Sues Google Over Photos”, LA Times, Nov. 20; Brenda Sandburg, “Strange Bedfellows”, The Recorder, June 7; Gretchen Gallen, “Perfect 10 Sues Visa/MasterCard”, XBiz, Jan. 29). Other Google lawsuits: Nov. 9, Aug. 9, Mar. 28.

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  • Thumbnail images held potentially infringing

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