Google threatened with lawsuit over leaked celebrity nude photos

Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the X-Men: Days Of Future Past world movie premiere in New York in a May 10, 2014 file photo. Lawrence's naked pictures were hacked and posted online. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the X-Men: Days Of Future Past world movie premiere in New York in a May 10, 2014 file photo. Lawrence's naked pictures were hacked and posted online. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP/REUTERS) - More than a dozen Hollywood celebrities whose naked pictures were hacked and posted online have threatened to sue Google for failing to crack down on the leaks.

In a letter by prominent Tinseltown lawyer Martin Singer published by the Hollywood Reporter, they warned they could seek US$100 million (S$127.2 million) in damages from the United States online search giant.

"We are writing concerning Google's despicable, reprehensible conduct in not only failing to act expeditiously and responsibly to remove the images, but in knowingly accommodating, facilitating and perpetuating the unlawful conduct," said the letter.

"Google is making millions and profiting from the victimisation of women," added the letter, dated on Wednesday and written on behalf of over a dozen unnamed celebrities, actresses, models and athletes.

"As a result of your blatantly unethical behaviour, Google is exposed to significant liability and both compensatory and punitive damanges that could well exceed 100 million dollars," wrote Singer.

Google "knows that the images are hacked stolen property, private and confidential photos and videos unlawfully obtained and posted by pervert predators who are violating the victims'privacy rights and basic human decency," he added.

According to the New York Post, he said he sent Google multiple notices of violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires Internet service providers to remove copyrighted material upon request, according to the report.

He said that while other sites, such as Twitter Inc, had complied with the requests and removed the photos, Google was still displaying them in its search results and hosting them on its YouTube and blogspot websites.

He demanded that Google immediately remove all the offending images. He also asked Google to preserve records related to the images, "pending subpoenas to be issued in the upcoming/pending litigation," according to the report.

"We've removed tens of thousands of pictures - within hours of the requests being made - and we have closed hundreds of accounts," Google said in a statement.

The warning letter came after two waves of nude photos, including of stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Kardashian, were circulated on social media last month.

Hackers first released a trove of nude starlets' photos on the Labor Day weekend at the start of September, after snatching them from Apple's iCloud in what the tech giant has called a "targeted attack." A second wave came three weeks later.