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Legality of Thumbnails in Germany?

The German-language Google News went online in July 2003, covering about 700 news sources. Germany was the 7th country to get a country-specific Google News service, which presents information culled from many news sources. Topics are updated continuously throughout the day. There are no human editors. Google has developed an automated grouping process for Google News that pulls together related headlines and photos. And here is the legal problem: Often thumbnail images from other news sources are used to illustrate links. These thumbnails could be in contradiction to copyright law.


In the USA,  the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp. held that the " fair use" exception includes "thumbnail" reproductions of copyrighted images generated by a visual Internet search engine. But the legal situation is different in Germany. Under the German Copyright Law of 1965 there is no general limitation of fair use, but  a closed set of `limitations' on a copyright owners rights (e.g. the reproduction for private or scientific use is permitted). All limitations don't apply to the conversion of internet photos to "thumbnails", according to the regional court of Hamburg. This means that Google can no longer use thumbnail images without the permission of the copyright owner. The decision is on appeal.



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