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Google & Other Search Engines: The WMDs Of Copyright Infringement

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The world seems to be waking up to the fact that search engines are potentially widespread copyright infringers, though it's Google, as usual, that takes the brunt of concerns. But for good reason, Google more than the other search engines is generating worry in new areas. A rundown on some good, recent articles on the subject.

For Soaring Google, Next Act Won't Be as Easy as the First from the Wall Street Journal (open access to everyone) is an excellent article that covers how the "opt out" approach to indexing that's been the norm in the search engine world is causing Google problems as it branches out into new areas.

Google Video's taping of television content without prior permission is said to have had executives at CBS and Warner Bros. extremely upset. "We're not just going to give this away for free," said a CBS exec, upset also not to have gained the "proper respect" as a potential partner. There are lots of other details on objections from others in the story and how Google went ahead even though it hadn't gained explicit permission that it was seeking.

The story also revisits what we've reported before, about some print publishers concerned over the Google digital library and Google Print programs. AFP concerns over Google News indexing is also raised.

Google's response to various concerns is that it is doing what fair use allows, that it allows publishers upset to opt-out even in some fair use cases and that as it expands, it will need to negotiate rights to certain types of content.

Boing Boing summarized a key part of Supreme Court's unsound decision at Salon that looks at how the Grokster case might impact Google. Of course, it's not just Google that would get impacted. It's any web search engine. The article highlights issues I've covered already, about how search engines are mass copyright infringers potentially, but that no one has really challenged them because web site owners seem to like the traffic they get.

The story missteps in suggesting that Google is a peer-to-peer copying tool. It is not. Rather than being like Grokster, which connected people but hosted nothing, Google and gang are much more like Napster -- which actually hosted material (see You Say Napster, I Say Grokster from Slate for more on the difference between the two). Napster, of course, lost its own lawsuit. Despite that, web search engines went on.

So taking a "sky is falling" line on Google in the wake of Grokster makes no sense. If Google and web search engines were going to take a fall, Napster would have been a key chop to fell them. Instead, forget Grokster and watch the most the traditional publishers -- print and video -- make against Google directly. That's going to be key, as I suspect will be what the search engines have already been allowed to do on an opt-out basis for about a decade now. More on that in my past post, Forget Google Print Copyright Infringement; Search Engines Already Infringe.

Finally, Click Here For Inducement Disclaimers from InternetNews.com looks at whether the mere act of running ads for program that might be used for copyright infringement might be considered inducement that lands Google in trouble.


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