Google Blogoscoped

Monday, October 13, 2008

German Court Rules Against Google’s Result Thumbnails

Bloomberg reports that Google lost two court cases in Germany over the display of thumbnails in their image search results.

Google’s preview of a picture by German photographer Michael Bernhard violates his copyrights, the Regional Court of Hamburg ruled, his lawyer Matthies van Eendenburg said in an interview today. Thomas Horn, who holds the copyrights on some comics that were displayed in Google search results, won a second case (...)

“It doesn’t matter that thumbnails are much smaller than original pictures and are displayed in a lower resolution,” the court said in its ruling for Bernhard. “By using photos in thumbnails, no new work is created,” that may have justified displaying them without permission.

(Thomas Horn is the creator of the self-proclaimed “subversive” goods fashion collection Psykoman, which started in 1988, according to TAZ mentions that at one time Thomas’ best selling item was a design which reused the logo of shoe company “Puma”, replacing the puma animal with a poodle as a kind of parody.)

In the US, fair use laws make it possible to offer such third-party services without specifically asking for permission. Adult magazine Perfect 10 once lost a case against Google in these regards, after an original decision was reversed. (In any case, Google’s bots respect the “robots.txt” protocol, where webmaster can disallow the spidering of images.)

This ruling can be appealed too, as Bloomberg adds, so let’s see what finally happens here. In the meantime, Google is not amused. Germany’s Kay Oberbeck tells GoogleWatchBlog (my translation, edited for clarity):

The ruling of the Regional Court of Hamburg is bad for internet users and users of image search engines in Germany in general – just as it’s bad for thousands of site owners who based their business on image searches.

Charges were also brought against other provides of image searches, such as AOL, T-Online, Yahoo. With this ruling, the court of Hamburg throws German internet users back into the digital stone age. And this is not just in regards to Google image search, but all of them. We are confident that the Regional Court will correct the ruling in the appeals procedure.

Kay argues that with this ruling, “poster shops, image agencies, galleries based on image search are deprived of their foundation.”

On another note, German laws also set precedents when it comes to search engine censorship. And then, they made life for Gmail users harder in Germany; those entering “” into their browser (instead of are directed to a page which, due to a lost trademark battle, reads:

We can’t provide service under the Gmail name in Germany; we’re called Google Mail here instead.

If you’re traveling in Germany, you can access your mail at

Oh, and we’d like to link the URL above, but we’re not allowed to do that either. Bummer.

[Hat tip to Search Engine Land and Hebbet!]


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!