Google Blogoscoped


Google Respects Copyright?  (View post)

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

Friday, September 29, 2006
16 years ago4,251 views

<<A court has ruled that Google's cacheing and displaying of millions of web-pages is legal.

A district court in Nevada brought down the ruling yesterday, deciding that Google was not breaking the law because it honors the "robots.txt" and "nocache" headers, because it automatically caches without human intervention, because cacheing is a fair use, and because this activity falls into a copyright exemption called a "safe harbor.">>

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

So that means everyone can legally republish anyone else's content found on the web, as long as they call it "cache," do it somehow automated, and respect the robots.txt and meta tags.

And what about the second case of a mobile viewer? Does that fall under proxy laws? E.g. Google Reader mobile automatically links to this version, leaving the original site owner out of the game.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Publishers are so ungrateful. Instead of thanking Google that people can visit your site from their tiny mobile phones (and removing the ads and other clutter), you say they need your permission.

What about Coral Cache, Wayback Machine, Google Translation, Babelfish?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

> you say they need your permission.

Where did I say that? I have two questions: is this full republication legal (conforming to today's laws, mostly in US context), and is it fair, and I didn't give an answer to either. For example, I think the Google cache is fair, as it doesn't deprive a site of visitors in its current form. (The way the ruling phrases this is missing the point, IMO – if Google would move the cache link to a position more prominent than the actual site link, for example, I think it would become *unfair*. As ever so often, unfortunately, copyright laws disregard actual effect of republication on the original publisher.)

> What about Coral Cache, Wayback Machine

We can ask the exact same question with the Wayback Machine (or any other site's cache), absolutely, and to some extent also the Google translator.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

If you don't have a fancy phone/mobile browser, you have two options:
- can't visit most of the sites
- visit them using Google

I don't see any major difference between Google's transcoding and Opera Mini, for example.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

First of all, Google Reader mobile doesn't check if you have a fancy phone or not – when you click "see original", it will always forward you to the Google mobile viewer – and second, the original site may already be formatted to support smaller displays anyway. That being said I still think Google Reader mobile is useful, I just wonder: is it legal? And is it fair?

Just as an example, it's more *useful* to you if I give you a free MP3 instead of you having to buy the original CD, but that doesn't make it *fair* or *legal* in itself. However, if we would assume that by handing out the free MP3, most people will then buy the full album if they like the song, then this might make it *fair* (because in pragmatic terms, the copyright owner didn't suffer through the full free republication). Still, under today's laws, it's not *legal*. So that's why I think we need to separate useful, fair and legal.

By the way, I'm allowing all of the Google Blogoscoped content to be republished anyway via the Creative Commons license, so this is definitely not about my opinion on what I think should happen with the content *here*. Personally I'm happy if Google does all the converting/ caching/ proxying/ encoding/ modification they can.

Chouser [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

Every time I view a page, I have created a copy of it within my machine. Not only that, the browser caches it. So I have created and saved a copy. If a site lets me do that, haven't they already given up some of their rights under copyright law? If I set up a caching proxy shared within my house, is that any worse? Shared within an office? Shared across a whole company, community, or the entire web?

It seems clear to me that making caching illegal would hurt the web in general. Hopefully any laws that try to prevent more abusive behavior (copying others content, editing it, adding ads and republishing) won't make good-faith caching illegal at the same time.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

> Every time I view a page, I have created a copy
> of it within my machine.

Chouser, I'm not talking about making copies – I'm talking strictly about *republishing* the copy (especially in the context of Google using the "fair use snippets" argument).

Tony Ruscoe [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

<< If a site lets me do that, haven't they already given up some of their rights under copyright law? >>

Chouser, the difference is that your browser will still create a cached copy regardless of the robots.txt file, so there's nothing the site owner can do about that really. Whether that cache is legal is an interesting question.

If a book lets you photocopy it, does that mean the publisher has given up their rights? No, because copyright prevents you from doing that. (Not physically, but legally.) The same should be true on a website.

Unless otherwise stated, all content has a copyright. I own the copyright to the content on my website. Regardless as to whether I've got a robots.txt file, that explicitly means that nobody can re-use or make copies of my content without asking for permission. Google never asked for permission, so they (legally) shouldn't be caching it. To make it legal, cached versions should really be opt-in rather than opt-out.

Having said all that, I don't mind Google caching my content at all. In fact, I'm very grateful they do! They still have a link to my original page, so I'm not too fussed. And so long as they *always* have a link to my original copy, I'll be happy.

So, why don't I release my website under a Creative Commons license? Because I like to think that maintaining the copyright gives me some control. Of course, people will always steal content anyway – and Philipp's posts used to appear all over the web even before he went with a Creative Commons license.

Chouser [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

I understand that, but I'm wondering if it's really all that easy to draw a legally-enforcable distinction. In a sense, my browser or proxy's cache republishes the page to my browser. It could easily republish the page to someone else's browser. Should one be illegal and the other not?

Don't forget that "fair use" does take into account monetary factors. If someone is making money off the copy, it's less likely to be considered fair use.

telcogod [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

it's good for users

[Personal attacked removed. -Philipp]

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

> In a sense, my browser or proxy's cache
> republishes the page to my browser.

But you're not republishing this to the rest of the world...

> Don't forget that "fair use" does take into
> account monetary factors. If someone is
> making money off the copy, it's less likely
> to be considered fair use.

I think fair use as it's commonly applied in law today largely ignores these factors, unfortunately. Or else copyright would already be like your basic Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. Of course, that would be a cool world (a world without DRM and a lot more free creativity).

Roger Browne [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

I believe the world would be cooler and more exciting without any kind of copyright law. Copyright law stifles human creativity by rationing it.

People would still be able to make money – from the value they add to the content. Input material plus creativity equals output material.

But if someone can distribute that content better, let that other person profit from the distribution. The prices of the input material and output material will then both drop, so the "markup due to creativity" becomes a greater percentage of the selling price.

Plus, all that money spent on lawyers gets spent on more socially useful things instead.

J. McNair [PersonRank 10]

16 years ago #

Actually, I've got to go with Mr. Lenssen. An interpretation of the Berne convention that defaults to CC Attribution-Noncommercial would be the least crappy compromise. Content makers and/or holders would be able to focus on people illegally PROFITTING from their work rather than people just playing with it. Also, Cease and Desist would handily become Attribute and Disclaim. This would encourage innovation and creativity. People who create tend to become more willing to protect their own and others' rights.

Unfortunately, there are little thorns like derivative works misrepresenting the original author(s) or sources, diluting brands, etc. So this isn't as easy as it looks. I think it woul work out in the long run, and the lawyers would stay in business so I don't know what THEY are worrying about.


iman [PersonRank 1]

16 years ago #

you forgot yahoo's myweb!

Karl-Friedrich Lenz [PersonRank 0]

16 years ago #

Is Google's republishing legal?


Of course not.

You need either a license or a limitation to copy anything to your cache in the first place, and another license or limitation to display that to third parties. Google has neither.

I have discussed the Nevada district court opinion mentioned above extensivily on my blog at the time.

Richard L. Brandt [PersonRank 3]

16 years ago #

The truth is that the copyright laws are having trouble keeping up with the Internet. Philipp raises some good questions about caching and mobile views.

Google keeps running into trouble with this issue because management agrees with Lawrence Lessig from Stanford: Copyright laws are too restrictive, they stifle creativity, they keep people from getting access to information, and they are hard to defend form the viewpoint of the "public good."

Google does this stuff because it benefits the user. But that does not make it legal. Just ask the Belgian courts. And make sure you don't reproduce the lyrics to "Happy Birthday," because that's still protected by copyright, too. You might get sued.

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