Newsflash: Google is a P0rn Scam

There are some fascinating allegations in Norm “Perfect 10” Zada’s newly-announced lawsuit against Google:

It is Perfect 10’s contention that Google is displaying hundreds of thousands of adult images, from the most tame to the most exceedingly explicit, to draw massive traffic to its web site, which it is converting into hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising revenue. Perfect 10 claims that under the guise of being a “search engine,” Google is displaying, free of charge, thousands of copies of the best images from Perfect 10, Playboy, nude scenes from major movies, nude images of supermodels, as well as extremely explicit images of all kinds.

Gosh, where is 60 Minutes when you need it? Who would have thought that Google was offering search as a loss leader to get p0rn traffic.

Somewhat more seriously, this is an interesting suit. In essence the core idea seems to be whether caching and displaying thumbnailed images constitutes fair use in a search business. Zada is apparently arguing that so much of the “product” is inherent in each image that merely caching the imagine is such a gross (no pun intended) business infringement that it damages his finance – while wildly boosting Google’s.

This has been litigated (at least once), with a federal appeals court ruling back in 2003 that search engines’ displays of image thumbnails was permissible. The full appeals court decision is here (in PDF form), and is well worth reading for its practically-minded discussion of trading off the inherent copyright infringement against the benefit to searchers.


  1. Why does return a 404 error? I mean, if you don’t want search engines indexing stuff on your site, you should put up a robots.txt file telling them to go away.