On Monday, July 7, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals withdrew and re-issued its ruling in Kelly v. Arriba Soft. In its new ruling, the court reversed and remanded a decision by the United States District Court for the Central District of California that potentially allowed any search engine that linked to copyrighted images to be held liable for infringement. The decision also affirms the lower court’s ruling that the use of thumbnail images by search engine databases was fair use under copyright law. The Samuelson Clinic for Law, Technology & Public Policy submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Internet search engine Google in support of Arriba Soft’s position.
The brief argued that a ruling against Arriba Soft would have a direct impact on Internet search engines such as Google because it could lead to allegations of copyright infringement against any Internet service that directly linked to a copyrighted work. The brief further argued that because linking to third-party sites is precisely how search engines like Google work, such an interpretation could destroy the essential service provided by search engines–helping individuals find information in the vast expanse of the Internet. Finally, the clinic argued that the decision left search engine companies and other Internet services uncertain of their exposure to copyright infringement liability for linking to publicly available websites.
The brief was filed by the clinic in March 2002.