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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Google's View of a Copyright and Robots

Google has taken a firm stance today against the proposed changes to the Australia's copyright laws that could allow for legal action against search engines for caching and indexing.

"Given the vast size of the Internet, it is impossible for a search engine to contact personally each owner of a web page to determine whether the owner desires its web page to be searched, indexed or cached," Google said today.

However, this debate is not new - currently, Google is already in a legal dispute with Agence France-Presse, who have complained that the Internet giant had used their material without permission or compensation - and how many legal actions are being filed in back rooms after the YouTube merger (according to Andy Beal, the threat is not immenint, it is certain)?

Google is forever at the beating end of the copyright stick - more so it seems than any other search engine, but you can chalk that up entirely to the fact that when Google is mentioned ears start to prick up - that and the fact that Google shares are four times the trading value of their nearest competitor. But I do not want to paint them out as being the poor "stepchild" and play out the Google maxim of "don't shoot the messenger." However, who is inevitably responsible for this failure to recognize original content?

It seems to me like everybody wants to be in the search engines, my entire industry is built around trying to satisfy that need, then how can the search engine be culpable for making copywritten material accessible. They aren't using it, they aren't accessing (really); they are just making it easier for people to see it and access it.

Isn't it the responsibility of the provider to make sure they have the proper measures in place to make sure these type of "invasions" do not happen; whether that be a robots.txt file or some other measure. Rather than look at like Google is the thief and the publisher just happened to accidentally leave his/her keys in the ignition; think of it like Google as the road. Sure the thief/user couldn't have stolen the car without a road to drive on, or the keys - but surely the road is no more to blame than the dimwitted owner.

I think Google has actually taken a good step in being proactive and opening up some used-to-be difficult to manage communication channels with its Digital Millennium Copyright Act and its revisions to Webmaster Central - teaching publishers how to protect content effectively. Maybe they could be more proactive and help to guide legislation that could possibly work and make it easier for publishers to attack infringing users without crossing that anonymity threshold that I so strongly defend when I am surfing the Internet.

Without a doubt, Australia's new legislation has not been designed to work at first pass, but don't think for a second that this doesn't mean that legislation is needed in the near future, and that legislation is coming. Almost every countries copyright acts are outdated and do not consider the transmission of information via the Internet - this will change; however, in the interim, learn how to protect your content from the threat of copyright infringement. It is far better to spend money proactively and today, then to fight a long and oft unsuccessful lawsuit for years to come.


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  • I really think you're right about this Rick, copyright is such a touchy subject and the laws are long overdue for an overhaul. People didn't learn with the music and movies copyright scandals, it needs to be made official and flexible enough to grow with the technology. Right now the best that Google can do is educate. Think of it like your phonebook, you are in it if you have a phone whether you like it or not, if you don't want to be in it, there are exceptions, like paying $4.95 a month, you really have no choice unless you want to pay.. people have lived with this for long enough, this copyright squabble against Google is just someone to place blame on. Tell me that the employees of Agence France-Presse have never used Google...

    By Blogger Cory, at 10:27 AM  

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