A publisher of nude model photography is suing Microsoft Corp. for putting links and images of the company's content in search results taken from other Web sites that are illegally reproducing the material.
The company, Perfect 10 Inc., previously lost a similar suit seeking injunctions against Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. and its subsidiary search engine, A9.com Inc., over alleged copyright infringement, but Perfect 10 is appealing that decision.
The latest suit, filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, alleges that Microsoft's MSN image search feature creates unauthorized thumbnails of content owned by Perfect 10 and includes links to see full-size versions of the images for free.
The suit also says Microsoft's MSN search engine can find passwords that have been improperly posted on other Web sites and enable access to Perfect 10's Web site. Microsoft also takes advertising money from Web sites that have stolen Perfect 10 images, according to the lawsuit.
Norm Zada, president of Perfect 10, said Microsoft has rejected efforts to reach a settlement. Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment.
Zada said Microsoft's search engine, as well as those of Google and Amazon.com, have caused his company to lose US$4 million a month. Perfect 10 recently closed its magazine after 10 years in print due to images being available for free online, which were easy to find through searches, he added.
"Our business is being destroyed," Zada said. "This is a life and death battle for us."
Perfect 10 sued between 20 to 25 Web sites that were stealing its content, but "it's absolutely hopeless. A lot of these people are in Russia or China," Zada said. Instead, Zada said he holds the search engines responsible for making it easy to find infringing content.
For a time, it looked as if Perfect 10 might prevail in its claim against Google and Amazon.com. In February, a judge ruled that Google and Amazon.com could be partially liable for infringement for displaying the thumbnails.
However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned most of that decision in May, citing fair-use principles and the benefits that search engines provide to the general public.
The court also found full-size images from Web sites are not stored by Google, and the company's search service merely directs a user's browser to third-party Web sites.
Zada said Perfect 10 is appealing the Ninth Circuit's decision, but no court date has been scheduled yet.