Google's aim is to help users discover information as quickly and efficiently as possible. Sometimes the information they seek is in written or audio form, and sometimes the information they seek is visual - which may take the form of photographs, designs, artworks or other types of imagery - and we try to present the information in a way that best answers the user’s query.

With this in mind, we launched our Image Search service in 2003, which presents users with a selection of reduced-resolution thumbnail images relating to their search query. Users can then click through to the site that hosts the image to see it in full-size or to see the content around it. Millions of users find this service helpful - they can quickly find exactly what they want, and many site owners do too - it’s another means through which Internet users can discover their sites. Website owners have complete control over what Google will crawl on their site: with a simple set of tools called robots.txt they can notably tell Google (and other search engines) not to crawl the images on their site.

We are heartened by the German Supreme Court´s ruling today that Google Image Search does not infringe copyright. The case was brought to court by an artist who had uploaded photos of her work (large paintings) to her own website. She then claimed for copyright infringement against Google as the images were displayed in our image search results.

Today´s ruling makes it clear not just for Google, its users in Germany and all owners of websites containing images, but also for all providers of image search services operating in the country: showing thumbnail images within search results is legitimate and millions of users in Germany benefit from being able to discover visual information at the click of a mouse.

We still have to wait for the full reasoning behind the decision. What we know today: thousands of websites and companies in Germany will be able to benefit from Google Image Search in the future as well. News websites on the Internet, online providers of pictures and posters, artists, photographers, designers and many more who depend on the web for their livelihoods can go on using the service as a significant distribution platform.

Posted by Dr. Arnd Haller, Managing Counsel, Google Germany GmbH