An important decision of the Paris Court of Appeal was rendered yesterday in a litigation between Google and a French Collective Society for Visual Works (SAIF). The Collective Society claimed that Google was infringing on the copyright of its authors members by reproducing and displaying their works in the form of thumbnails on the pages of Google Image service and also by reproducing their works through Google caching system. Before the Court of First Instance, the Judge considered the applicable law to be the U.S. Copyright Act, and consequently, the court applied the fair use defense in line with the Arriba and Perfect 10 decisions.
The Court of Appeal disagreed and applied French law. Nevertheless, it too rejected plaintiff’s claim and decided that Google benefited from the “safe harbor” provisions of the Loi sur la Confiance dans l’Economie Numérique [the relevant French statute]. It considered Google as being a “neutral” actor and the reproduction of the photos necessary to provide the service. It also refused to consider a sort of contributory infringement liability when Google refers to works available on the Internet without the consent of the rights holder.