Attorney Marty Singer wrote a blistering letter to Google yesterday, demanding that the company do a better job of policing stolen nude celeb photos that started appearing on the internet in August, and calling Google's much touted (and controversial) "don't be evil" motto "a sham."
Singer says that while "The cast majority of ... sites and ISPs/hosts, all of which are much smaller than Google, with far fewer staff and resources, complied with their obligations under the [Digital Millenium Copyright Act] and removed the images within an hour or two of receiving our DMCA notice," Google "has recklessly allowed these blatant violations to continue in conscious disregard of our clients' rights."
The difficulty for celebrities is that while the actual theft/uploading of the photos is considered a criminal act, simply re-posting the pictures is not. It is, for the most part, a copyright issue. Many organizations, especially Google have complied unevenly with DMCA takedown requests, especially since there is a lot of argument over who owns the copyright on some of these pictures. Usually the image is owned by the photographer, but in some cases it's unclear just who the photographer is, and that might keep sites like Google from removing the images.
Amanda Levendowski, who studies studies innovation law and policy at NYU Law, spoke to us in the past about using copyright to fight the posting of nude photos without the subjects consent:
The great news is that an estimated 80% of revenge porn victims took the pictures themselves. Which means they own the copyright to the image. Which means that when their exes submit the photo to a revenge porn website, the interim copies and subsequent display of those selfies infringes on victims' exclusive copyrights to reproduce and display their work.
But this only works if the companies hosting the images agree with the victim's perception that they own the copyright, and in this case, it seems as though Google is waffling a bit. You can read Singer's full letter to Google below (via The Hollywood Reporter)