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8/9/2007
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Porn Publisher Sues Microsoft Over Search Images

The man behind Perfect 10 claims that MSN violates his copyrights by linking to third party sites that show unauthorized copies of his images.

In a case that could have broad implications for the search industry, a publisher of soft-core pornographic magazines and Web sites has sued Microsoft for copyright infringement.

Norm Zada, founder and publisher of Perfect 10, claims that the software maker's MSN search engine violates his copyrights by linking to third party sites that show unauthorized copies of his images.

"They're linking to sites that are stealing every imaginable copyright out there," said Zada, in an interview.

A former Stanford professor and IBM employee, Zada is the son of Lofti Zadeh, the famed computer scientist who helped invent fuzzy logic.

Zada filed the copyright infringement action against Microsoft on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for Central California.

Zada has filed similar suits against Amazon.com and Google. In 2004, Perfect 10 filed its lawsuit against Google claiming the thumbnails infringed on the Web site's copyrights. In February 2006, a District Court judge said that Zada would likely succeed in proving Google had infringed, which would have prevented Google and Amazon from displaying pictures and links to the company's photos. In May 2007, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court decision on appeal, based on laws concerning fair use finding.

Zada said his efforts to settle the matter out of court with Microsoft fell on deaf ears. "Their position is that because they are linking to the offending Web sites, and not directly to the images, they have no liability," Zada said.

The publisher added that he has lost millions of dollars in revenue because individuals who might otherwise use his subscription Web site can see unauthorized duplications of his material for free on third party sites that show up in MSN search results.

"Everyone thinks I'm this horribly litigious guy but I'm just trying to protect my property," said Zada, who is seeking unspecified damages.

If Perfect 10 prevails in the case it could force all major search engines to revisit their linking policies or face liability claims.

Zada said he does not plan to sue Yahoo because the company has been somewhat responsive to his requests that it remove search results that link to sites that violate his copyrights.

A Microsoft spokesman said it would be premature to comment on the case until the company has had more time to review it.

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