The giant search engine was put on notice of a potential lawsuit in a letter that charges Google with “despicable and reprehensible” conduct.
The celebrities are not named, but such notables as Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kate Bosworth, Ariana Grande, Victoria Justice, Vanessa Hudgens and Scarlett Johansson have seen their nude photos go viral.
The legal challenge raises important issues involving the First Amendment and Google’s role as a publisher or merely a third party service that sorts and indexes content on the Internet.
Google typically maintains search contents in perpetuity. The service is a virtual monopoly because it controls more than 70 percent of all search traffic.
Google has also introduced new “algorithms” over the past two years that go by such names as Panda and Penguin. They have suppressed content from hundreds of small, independent sites in favor of large corporate sites in the name of controlling “spam.”
In that sense, it holds vast power over what can been seen on the Internet–some say too much power.
Google is under fire in Europe, where it has been ordered to remove content from its search engines on request under a new privacy law based on the “right to be forgotten.”
Once the usual Singer hyperbole is stripped away, the celebrity letter, obtained by TMZ, raises key questions about the nature of Google’s search business.
For one, the letter demands the removal of the images under the federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which is mainly directed at Internet publishers who potentially violate copyrights when they publish content.
Is Google a publisher? The company would likely dispute that. In addition, Singer has his work cut out for him in determining exactly who owns the copyrights to the photos.
Generally, the copyright belongs to the person who takes the photo, not the subject. Since many photos are “selfies,” the owner is evident.
But scores were taken by unknown individuals who would have to identify themselves and file copyright claims with the government.
The letter also raises questions about the First Amendment and censorship. Even though the content was “stolen,” its publication may be covered by the First Amendment, especially since the celebrities involved are all viewed as “public figures” under the law.
In any event, the letter is demanding removal of all content in the face of a threatended $100 million lawsuit for “perpetuating the despicable conduct of these habitual pervert predators.”
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