Judge In Google Book Settlement Case Says Photographers Are Not Authors

The latest twist in the ongoing settlement talks between Google and book authors is that yesterday, the judge in the case denied an attempt by photographers to become part of the settlement. In the decision (embedded below), Judge Denny Chin basically ruled that photographers are not authors, and that the settlement only covers “word-based material,” with the exception of illustrations in children’s books.

The judge writes that the motion was filed too late, and that in any case, the current settlement does not preclude photographers from bringing their own lawsuit.

The motion to join the suit was brought by the American Society of Media Photographers, the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photographers Association, and several individual photographers. The current settlement is between Google and the Author’s Guild.

Obviously, many books include photographs and illustrations. If a book is scanned into Google’s searchable database with a copyrighted image, it appears that Google might still be liable for displaying those images. At least that is what judge Chin suggests when he writes that the settlement does not copyright holders of “pictorial materials and binds them in no way.” I’ve asked Google for clarification on how it intends to deal with such issues.

Update: A google spokesperson responds: ” If the book’s rightsholder also owns the copyrights to the photographs in the book, then those images will be included. If they don’t, then the photographs won’t be displayed.”

Photo credit: Flickr/Mike Baird

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