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Google in Historic Lawsuit

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New York, NYNever irritate an artist, unless you want to get sued. Some of the most successful photographers, visual artists, writers, cartoonists and web designers say that Google is copying and distributing their work without permission. A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of artists against Google amounts to the single largest copyright infringement case in history.

Attorney James McGuire, managing partner from the New York law firm Mishcon De Reya, which represents many of the artists involved, says there is a lot on the line. Google has digitized some 12 million books, and by its own admission, plans to add even more books to its digital library.

"It is a very important lawsuit philosophically and legally and financially," says McGuire. "This is a suit that seeks remedies for a large class of visual artists whose work has been exploited or used without permission or without compensation by Google. The suit attempts to address past wrongs and any further future infringement that Google attempts to carry out."

According to McGuire, Google has essentially been stealing the work of hundreds of artists and writers since 2005. "This is not a small problem. It is a large problem and it has been going on for several years. Obviously every time you do that to a book without appropriate permission or authorization, you infringe upon the rights not only of the folks who own the written work, but also the rights the owners of the visual part of the book, like photographs and illustrations."

McGuire says he is not at liberty to even guess at the value of the work allegedly infringed upon, but points out that his firm represents "well over 10 thousand plaintiffs in the class".

The case could have implications not only for artists and writers in the US but for others around the world that may have copyright infringement cases against Google. "This is a very, very substantial case. There is a lot riding on it, let's put it that way."

In the past, when confronted with similar complaints, Google has shown an interest in trying to resolve issues with artists. "If they don't in this case," says McGuire, "it will be a long, drawn-out, complicated case."

James McGuire has been practicing law in New York for 25 years. His practice focuses on white collar crime and complex commercial litigation as well as internal arbitrations and investigations. He has successfully brought over 20 jury cases to trial. McGuire manages a seven-lawyer New York branch of Mishcon De Reya, a prestigious law firm headquartered in London, England. In the past, Mishcon De Reya has represented such clients as Sir Jeffrey Archer and Princess Diana.

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