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Germany gives thumbs-up to Google Image thumbnails

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Germany’s supreme court has finally published the decision in which it says –- yet again -– that it’s OK for Google’s Image Search tool (s GOOG) to show thumbnails of the images it finds.

This was the second time the country’s top court had to give a ruling on the issue, but Google said on Wednesday that it was glad its point had been proven for once and for all.

In the most recent case, a photographer tried to stop tried to stop Google from showing thumbnails of a photo he’d taken of a TV presenter that had been uploaded by an authorized licensee and then indexed by the company’s search engine.

The court made the decision last October, but the details were only published today, essentially saying that it wasn’t reasonable to expect Google’s bots to be able to tell who had uploaded which image, and whether they had been allowed to do so. If someone doesn’t want their images crawled, they can apply a robots.txt exclusion file like anyone else.

Arnd Haller, Google’s legal chief for central and northern Europe, sounded upbeat about the ruling’s terms.

“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,” he said on Wednesday.

“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.”

In 2010 the Bundesgerichthof ruled that it was fair for Google to show thumbnails of an artist’s work which she herself had uploaded to the web.

I’m sure Google’s legal team is savoring the moment ahead of what’s coming. A draft law in Germany would force the company to pay news providers for using short summaries of their articles in Google News (which sends traffic their way).

Yes, it’s Meltwater all over again, only aimed at the biggest aggregator of them all. Europe really does like to give Google headaches.