Well, several photo groups, along with some photographers, have filed suit against Google regarding their google books project.
I won’t repeat what has been said in the various articles. You can read about it:
In the New York Times;
On the ASMP website;
One thing I will say is that the recent Supreme Court ruling of Reed Elsevier v. Muchnik has paved the way for this case.
Here is why.
Many of the photographers covered in the Google Books photographers class action suit have likely not registered their copyrights. This means that they could not bring suit themselves and still get statutory damages. But in the Muchnik case, the Supreme Court ruled that the court can still have jurisdiction over a copyright case in a class action, even if the members of the class covered by the settlement have not all registered their copyrights. Of course the google suit asks for statutory damages for each infringement, and a court is not likely to award statutory damages for infringements where the copyright is not registered. But getting a judgment and getting a settlement are two entirely different things. The way is now clear for a settlement.
Photographers should be aware of the danger of class actions suits. Google may get hit in the pocket book, but there is always a risk that photographers who aren’t in the original suit will not see much of the money. Here’s hoping that the photo groups don’t let that happen.