Earlier today the German Supreme Court - the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH) - issued the written grounds for an important decision ("Vorschaubilder II") around image search and copyright and said that the Google Image Search in line with copyright law.
With this decision the court has confirmed Google's long standing position that providing thumbnails in its search results is in line with copyright law.
"The court carefully balanced the interests of the copyright holder and users to find content online and it confirmed the right of the author to demand the removal of its copyrighted work from any infringing website," posted Dr. Arnd Haller, Legal Director, North- and Central Europe, Google.
"It is encouraging to see that the five year long period of legal proceedings and legal uncertainty came to an end with a promising outlook: for copyright holders who can control the access to their works, for search engines who are legally allowed to link to third party content and, ultimately, for internet users who can still find the content they are looking for," notes Haler.
"The court also made clear that a search engine is allowed to crawl and to index thumbnails of images that are either made available by the copyright holder himself or by anyone else who was granted a license to make them available," added Haller.
"This legal position is in line with the decision introduced in a former case from April 2010 ("Vorschaubilder I"): a copyright holder who makes its work available online without implementing any technical protections against the copying of the work as a thumbnail (e.g. by applying robots exclusion standards) gives its consent to search engines to display the work in the form of a thumbnail."
"The court expressly broadened its previous jurisdiction now: if a copyright holder has allowed a licensee to display protected works online, the search engine can also rely on the consent of that licensee," Haller write.
You can read the court's order here (pdf).