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Friday, November 4, 2005

Google’s Advanced Copyright Search

Google has a brand-new feature in its advanced settings; return results filtered by usage rights. Currently, the three different search types are:

  1. Return results that aren’t filtered by license (this is the old, default value, which returns both copyrighted and free-to-use works).
  2. Results that allow some forms of re-use (this covers Creative Commons licenses with some restrictions).
  3. Results that can be freely modified, adapted or build upon (these would be public domain resources, like Project Gutenberg, or specific non-restricted Creative Commons licenses).

This search filter isn’t only of interest to those looking for content to republish or mash. It could serve as incentive for publishers of web content to allow re-use of their content, because then, it would push them higher in the rankings when people are searching with these advanced filters.

How does the search work, then? I think at the moment Google does little more than analyze which Creative Commons licenses are linked from specific web pages. For example, when I search for sites allowing some for of re-use, I end up on a page that has the Creative Commons Attribution - Non-Commercial license. Searching for content which can be freely modified, adapted or build upon returned a page licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (by Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig no less – I searched for [google], and received this).

Searching for [] returns no results, even though Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Google seems to be missing out on millions of pages which do offer re-use.

Note sites found with the any re-use filter are already included as sub-set in the some re-use filter, so if you want to search for any kind of CC-license, you don’t have to search twice.

How many pages does this new search type dig through? It’s hard to tell, as searching for [* *] doesn’t return any results as it does in web search. However, search for [the] and you get around 10 million results for the some re-use filter (and roughly half that for the any use filter).

Is this filter a new thing on the search scene? The answer is, well, no. Yahoo already has a special Creative Commons search since March 23 this year. It’s quite possible the Googleplex engineers were “inspired” by this. (The Creative Commons homepage has a search as well.)

[Thanks to Eric Lebeau of French Zorgloob for spotting this.]


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