Google Inc. violated federal copyright
laws when it allowed a photograph of an executive with Des Moines-based ARAG
North America Inc. to be posted on a blogger's website it hosts, according to a
lawsuit filed in federal court in Des Moines.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf
of ARAG, a firm that provides legal insurance, and Ann Dieleman, the company's
chief marketing officer. Dieleman is a graduate of Simpson College and Drake
University. Her office is in Kansas City, Mo.
At issue is a head-and-shoulders
corporate photograph of Dieleman that was posted in 2009 on the
website sexyexecs.blogspot.com. The website posts hundreds of corporate
photographs and seems to invite unflattering comments about those photos. The
website is the first that returns under a Google search for Ann Dieleman.
The photograph in question was
taken in December 2005. Des Moines intellectual property law attorney Brett
Trout registered the photo for copyright protection on behalf of ARAG in
Trout notified Google on Sept.
11, 2012, that it was infringing on ARAG's copyright by allowing the
photograph, titled "Dieleman Head Shot," to be posted on the Sexy
Two weeks later, Google replied
that it would not remove the photo and warned Trout that he would be
"liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees) if you
materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing your
copyrights." The email was signed "The Google Team."
Google also claimed that
photographers, not their subjects, generally are the owners of their pictures,
unless that right has been waived in a contract. The Web giant also said,
"We encourage you to resolve any disputes directly with the blogger."
Trout responded: "The fact
that you are aware that 'Under U.S . law, copyright in a photograph is
generally owned by the photographer' indicates you are on notice that you are
hosting infringing material on sexyexecs.blogspot.com
website. We view your multiple and ongoing refusals to remove the infringing
material as willful copyright infringement on the part of Google."
As of today, the photo remained
on the Sexy Executives website.
"My experience is that Google just does
whatever Google wants," Trout said.