Update at end of post with comment from Google spokesperson.
Boring v. Google. A Pennsylvania coupled has sued Google, alleging that Google trespassed upon their property, took photographs of their property and then made them available online as part of the Street View function of Google Maps. By filing their privacy claims, the Borings have made the allegedly private photos newsworthy, which arguably paves the way for others to report this story by reprinting those photos.
In their complaint, Aaron and Christine Boring of 1567 Oakridge Lane, Pittsburgh, PA 15237 allege invasion of privacy, trespass, negligence, and conversion ("The conduct of Defendant constitutes a conversion of value in Plaintiffs' property from Plaintiffs to Defendant.").
Google Street View images of the Borings' property, including of their swimming pool, are here and elsewhere throughout the Internet, thanks to public interest in this lawsuit.
The complaint alleges as follows:
The acts of Defendant Google constitute an intentional and/or grossly reckless invasion on Plaintiffs' seclusion in that Oakridge Lane is clearly marked with a "Private Road" sign. To drive up Plaintiffs' driveway and stop in proximity to the residence, garage and swimming pool, Defendant significantly disregarded Plaintiffs' privacy interests. The invasion on Plaintiffs' seclusion was substantial and highly offensive to a reasonable person.
Defendants [sic] reckless conduct has exposed Plaintiffs' private information to the public at large with the commensurate risks that this is [sic] entails. Punitive damages are warranted to deter Defendants from further invading on the privacy of Plaintiffs and others.
The upshot of this is that by filing the lawsuit, the Borings have rendered Google's images of their property newsworthy. Accordingly, websites that report this story by reproducing Google's photos of the Borings' property are arguably more likely to be engaging in fair use under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Sec. 107. Likewise, third parties are now arguably more free to publicize the photos under the very Pennsylvania common law upon which the Borings are suing Google. "Where the information that is reported pertains to the public interest as well as a party's private interest, there is a balance to be drawn between that individual's right of privacy and dissemination of information pertaining to the public interest." Pierog v. Morning Call, Inc., 1995 WL 813163, 2 (Pa.Com.Pl.,1995), citing Jenkins v. Bolla, 411 Pa. Super. 119, 126, 600 A.2d 1293, 1297 (1992).
It all brings to mind this video:
The WSJ Law Blog reports this statement from a Google spokesperson:
There is no merit to this action. It is unfortunate litigation was chosen to address the concern because we have visible tools, such as a YouTube video, to help people learn about imagery removal and an easy-to-use process to facilitate image removal.
As a matter of policy, imagery for Street View is taken in public streets and what any person can readily capture or see in the public domain. Street View is a popular, engaging feature that allows people to easily find, discover, and plan activities relevant to a location.