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Corbis Using DMCA in Suit Against Amazon.com

Seattle-based image and archiving specialist Corbis has filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Amazon.com , accusing the e-commerce giant of the selling its images without its consent.

Corbis, which is owned by Microsoft boss Bill Gates, is seeking damages and injunctive relief for federal claims, including copyright infringement and violation of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The case could potentially add clarity and even case law to the "safe harbor" provision in the DMCA, which has been used to shield against secondary copyright infringement involving sites that link to other sites in e-commerce partnerships.

The Corbis suit said the movie site IMDB.com was used to shuttle visitors to Amazon.com from IMDB.com's "Celebrity Photos" section. "A consumer who clicks upon the "Celebrity Photos" box at IMDB.com is connected to the Amazon Web site, which displays a list of various photos of celebrities, complete with copies of images of the photos of such celebrities, which can be purchased from a list of various suppliers," the suit alleged.

Corbis, which makes money from licensing images to publishers, advertising agencies and filmmakers, accused Amazon.com of hawking photographs and posters of a range of celebrities that are illegal reproductions of copyright-protected images.

Amazon.com officials could not be reached for comment at press time Tuesday. According to published reports, Amazon.com spokesman Bill Curry said the company would remove the photos and other images in question from its Web site. Curry also told The Wall Street Journal that the Corbis suit is "without merit with respect to Amazon" because of the safe harbor provisions in the DMCA.

The Corbis suit, which is seeking in some cases up to $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed, accused Amazon.com of using copyright-protected images to lure shoppers to purchase other products.

"Upon linking from IMDB.com, the Amazon website not only displays and transmits to consumers unlicensed Corbis represented images, but also sells physical copies of such images," the company charged.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, includes exhibit images of celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, Christina Aguilera and Mel Gibson, among others.

Other retailers targeted in the Corbis lawsuit include Famed and Framed, Famous Faces, Inc., HDS Productions, Legends Memorabilia, Inc., Carolyn Otwell, Movie Goods, Inc., Photos4Sale, Pix Poster Cellar, Posternow GmbH, Rick's Movie Graphics, Inc., Sign Here Autographs, Poster Planet, Iconographics, GS Trading International and Wynnco.com.