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Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
487 F.3d 701 (9th Cir. 2007)


In response to image searches, Google, Inc.’s (Google) (defendant) search engine communicated thumbnail versions of images to the user. Google stored the thumbnails on its servers. Google did not store the full versions of the images on its servers. If users clicked on a thumbnail, Google sent HTML instructions to the user’s computer on where to find the full image on a third party website. The image then appeared from the third party website in a window, framed by additional information from Google. This process was known as “in-line linking.” Google obtained revenue from certain of these third party websites through advertising agreements. Perfect 10 (plaintiff) operated a subscription website for pictures of nude models. Google’s search engine returned thumbnails of copyrighted Perfect 10 images. Perfect 10 brought a copyright infringement suit against Google and Amazon.com, Inc. (defendants). The district court granted Perfect 10 a preliminary injunction. The district court found that Perfect 10 was likely to succeed in its claim that the defendants violated Perfect 10’s display right by posting the thumbnails, but that Perfect 10 was not likely to succeed in its claim that the defendants violated Perfect 10’s distribution right by linking to full size images via the thumbnails. The district court found that the defendants’ display of the thumbnails was not fair use. The defendants appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Ikuta, J.)

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