Goodbye Google Image Search as we know it

The actual court injunction against Google

Well, there you have it… a preliminary injunction by a California judge against Google Inc., Amazon et. al. See the whole thing here.

You see there’s this soft porn company called Perfect 10. They even publish a magazine with the most perfect “natural” women in the world (no additives but plenty of preservatives). This magazine is, from what I hear, like getting the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, 12 months out of the year.

Well, really, it is just a tie-in to Perfect 10’s big business – their Pay-for-Porn services at Perfect10.com. They want you to goto their website for the full nude shots of their models. Plus they want to put naked girls on your cell phone. And that’s where the problem lies. While there are many more famous body parts, for Perfect 10 the most important it all comes down to the girl’s thumbs.

Google’s image search goes out and grabs pictures from all over the Internet UNLESS a website tells them not to. And some guys like to share pornographic pictures of “hot women” on their websites. When Google displays those pictures, they are displayed as small thumbnail size images – the perfect size for a cell phone screen. You can see where this is going… So, Perfect 10 is saying that Google is distributing copyrighted material in a form that will directly affect their market. And the judge agrees. I’m sorry to say that I agree too.

The facts in the case are not disputed.

  • Google does display copyrighted images – this is strictly speaking illegal.
  • Google does display versions of them modified to a thumbnail size – this is strictly speaking illegal.
  • This one is almost as important – Google is aiding in theft of services by discovering and propogating passwordz to porn sites.  So this is not JUST about images but Perfect 10 is also saying that google cannot display text results that might contain information that allows people into their site without paying for it. 

How do you fix that? How do you restrict text searches?  How do you tell if an image was once associated with a copyrighted site.  It’s a bit of a sticky wicket. Google indexes what’s on the web. That’s all it does. The funny thing is that the Judge didn’t know what to do about. He asked Google to come up with a solution to get him out of this hairy mess.

Eliminating all possible copyrighted material this goes fundamentally against the very nature of the search engine. Google was already pressing the boundary by indexing all copyrighted works in public libraries. This particular case strikes not at that blatent infringement, but at the core search that no one (few) had a problem with.

So, in the ever more dicey battle over intellectual property, where do search engines fall? Could this be the end of an all inclusive Google? I think the answer is: yes. Google – as we know it – is gone. There will be restrictions enforced on copyrighted material. Personally, I think Google will propose a standard involving placing copyright notices in the page, the .htaccess or more specifically the media itself. The latter is the only solution that works for images copied off site. Then any media that contains that copyright notice (which will become a standard addition to images produced on professional grade cameras) will not be indexed on Google. However, I think Perfect 10 will fight against that since it is more work for them and it is easily bypassed.

We’ll have to see. Will Girls, Girls, Girls be the downfall of that brief 21st century fluke: “The Search Engine”.

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