Swiss snap

November 20, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

I continue to love the Swiss. Awhile back, I told you how the Swiss privacy watch dog was raising concerns about Google Street View cruising the streets of Switzerland and accused Google of potentially not protecting private citizens’ privacy. Well, now the skirmish is shaping up to be a huge cat fight to watch because the Swiss are hauling Google’s ass into court. Happy face :-)

The Swiss are making demands and asking for a temporary injunction to stop the Google juggernaut. Apparently, Google did not comply with the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner’s recommendations around making Street View more palatable for the privacy-obsessed Swiss. Naughty Google. Here are the Swiss demands:

  • up to one week before Google cruises into a town or city snapping images, they are to inform authorities. (Guess this would give people like me, who have an aversion to Street View, time to erect barricades around the home to stop the Google eye from peering into my backyard. But doesn’t really give one a chance to mount a legal challenge, so not sure that this demand goes anywhere really);
  • remove any pictures of enclosed areas such as walled gardens and private streets;
  • blur faces and car plate images. Since arriving in Switzerland earlier this year, it’s alleged photos of people and cars are identifiable and insufficiently blurred, especially around sensitive areas such as schools or hospitals.

Naturally, I’ll be watching this space. I think this is the first time Google has faced a law suit from a Government agency.

But here’s an interesting question. I conducted a webinar last weekend on Intellectual Property Rights for my students in Hong Kong. We were talking about copyright, industrial design, patents and so on. So..I wonder…let’s just say your home is designed by an architect. Even better, let’s imagine that the architect is you. So you would have drawings, plans, computer-assisted designs etc. Architects can protect their designs through copyright.  For example, in the US, Congress passed the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act (AWCPA), which amended the Copyright Act to specifically include “architectural works” among the list of protected works in 17 U.S.C. § 102. Let’s also say that your partner is a sculptor and has some original works – statues – in the garden.

So along comes Google’s Street View car. Snap, snap. The image of your house and the sculpture are plastered on the internet via Street View. Is this infringement of copyright?

Image credit: Wikipedia

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