"Google is engaging in massive copyright infringement," the plaintiffs alleged in papers filed this week in U.S. District Court in New York.
The complainants, which include a well-known combat photographer and a respected childrens' books illustrator, claim Google "will continue its brazen acts of willful copyright" unless it's stopped by the court.
Google has struck deals with libraries at several top colleges, including Stanford and the Universities of California, Michigan, Virginia, and Wisconsin, to scan their entire collections and make them available online through its Google Books service. Google's also entered similar deals with several book publishers.
But the photographers and illustrators whose works are included in the books say Google never got their permission to reproduce the images electronically.
"Google knew or should have known that the Copyright Act required it to obtain authorization" from the creators, says the lawsuit, which was brought by the American Society of Media Photographers, the Graphic Arts Guild, Professional Photographers of America, and other groups.
The plaintiffs' roster also includes war photographer Leif Skoogfors and kids' books illustrator Simms Taback.
"Despite this knowledge, Google has unlawfully reproduced, distributed, and publicly displayed the visual works contained in the books and periodicals it has scanned andintends to continue to do so," the suit contends.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to enjoin Google from displaying the books in question on its Web site and fine the company up to $180,000 for each work it's found to have reproduced in violation of copyright laws.
Google has yet to file a formal response to the allegations. InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on cloud computing and service-level agreements. Download the report here (registration required).