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Corbis Corp., a photography-archiving company owned by billionaire Bill Gates, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against Amazon.com and several partners, alleging copyright infringement. The suit contends the defendants, through Amazon’s Web site, have been selling celebrity posters and photos that are illegal reproductions of photos copyrighted by Corbis and its photographers. The suit seeks undetermined damages that could total in the millions of dollars from Amazon, 15 vendors and as many as 10 John Doe defendants. The suit also alleges that the defendants are violating Seattle-based Corbis’ copyrights by including images on Amazon’s Web site to entice buyers to purchase the posters and other products. Corbis and its photographers hold copyrights to a number of photos of celebrities from actor Gregory Peck to Madonna. Seattle-based Amazon allows other merchants to offer their own wares at the widely known online store, letting them access a huge customer base while providing Amazon another source of revenue. Amazon said the suit has no merit and questioned why Corbis never brought up the alleged infringement before filing suit. Amazon also said the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects companies like it from copyright violations by third parties. “They never notified us that there was a problem,” said Amazon spokesman Bill Curry. “When we do get notification (of a potential copyright violation) we investigate and take down material that is infringing.” The company is now removing the photos and other materials from its site, Curry said. Corbis attorney Dan Donlan said the company sued first because the “acts by Amazon were a little more blatant than what we would see in other circumstances.” Corbis, founded in 1989 by Microsoft chairman Gates, maintains a photo library of news, celebrity, sports and other images for licensing to advertisers, news organizations and others. The defendants are from across the country and in Canada, Germany and Australia. Representatives of the companies either could not be located or did not immediately return telephone messages left Monday by The Associated Press. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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