A federal judge in Los Angeles has handed Google a significant victory in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by adult entertainment company Perfect 10.
In a ruling issued earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge A. Howard Matz largely cleared Google for allegedly displaying links in search results to sites that infringe Perfect 10's copyright. Matz found that in many cases, Perfect 10 had not provided the search company with detailed enough information to be able to easily remove the pirated material.
In general, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects search engines from liability for returning copyright images in their results, provided the search engines remove pirated material upon request. Matz said in his ruling that Perfect 10 made at least 83 such takedown requests to Google since 2001, but that most of them were deficient.
Matz elaborated that some of the takedown notices were sent to the wrong address -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- instead of the address that Google had designated. Other takedown notices referred to "dozens or even hundreds of alleged infringing links," but many of those didn't contain enough details about the URLs for Google to be able to determine what material to remove.
Matz said that in other instances, Perfect 10 merely provided Google with a package of a cover letter, spreadsheet and DVDs with electronic files -- and then expected Google to "comb through hundreds of nested electronic folders containing over 70,000 distinct files, including raw image files such as JPEG files and screen shots of Google search results, in order to find which link was allegedly infringing."
While Matz didn't dismiss all of Perfect 10's claims, the ruling seems to put a big dent in the company's case, which has been pending since 2004.
Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman says on his blog that the ruling shows that content owners "should not get creative or lazy" with their takedown requests. "Over and over again, we've seen that the big service providers will respond quickly to properly drafted takedown notices; and we've seen judges become increasingly less tolerant of plaintiffs who couldn't bother to follow the statutory roadmap," he writes.
The ruling marks at least the second major recent defeat for Perfect 10. In May, a different federal judge denied Perfect 10's request for an injunction shutting down RapidShare for allegedly contributing to copyright infringement.