Google fights German legal challenge to image search

BERLIN (AP) — Google has appealed two court decisions that could ban it and other search engines from operating image searches in Germany, a spokesman for the Internet giant said Thursday.

Last month a district court in Hamburg ruled in favor of two men who claim search engines that pull images from their websites infringe on their copyrights.

The complaints lodged by Michael Bernhard, a photographer, and Thomas Horn, who owns the rights to several frames of a comic called "Psykoman," resulted in a ruling that could oblige Google and three other search engines to stop displaying images — or gain permission to display each copyrighted picture.

"We are really disappointed about the ruling," said Kay Oberbeck, a spokesman for Google in Germany. "We believe Google Image Search is entirely legal."

Oberbeck said other European courts have supported Google's right to display thumbnail images from other websites as search results.

He added that concerned website managers could also employ software to block images or text from being picked up by a search engine.

"Google doesn't profit from Google Image Search," Oberbeck said. "It's the thousands of websites that make a profit on being found through searches that would be hurt."

Google and the other search engines named in the ruling — Deutsche Telekom, Freenet.de and AOL Germany — can continue to run image searches in Germany while the appeals are pending.

Google filed its appeals on Tuesday, and Freenet.de also planned to appeal.

No date has been set for the Hamburg appeals court to hear any of the cases.

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