Perfect 10 and Contributory Liability: Can Search Engines Survive?

June 16, 2012

Search engines allow millions of users to locate content on the Internet, including content offered by individuals and companies who have infringed upon a copyright holder’s rights. Copyright Law’s contributory infringement doctrine presents a dilemma for search engines like Google, whose services may facilitate the infringement of copyrights by enabling users to locate such content on the Internet. The Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Perfect 10, Inc. v. Amazon.com, Inc. highlights the problems associated with contributory liability doctrine in copyright law in the digital era. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court, holding that “reasonable and feasible” means were available to Google, enabling it to block access on its search engine to content that violates a copyright holder’s rights. This recent development illustrates some of the problems of applying the standard of contributory liability to search engines on the Internet.