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Website Publisher Sues Google over Caching

10:59 pm on Nov 26, 2004 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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sued Google Inc. for copyright infringement Friday, accusing the Internet titan of failing to adequately remove from its search results thousands of photos posted online without permission.

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6:53 pm on Nov 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I don't think this case isn't about caching at all.

I think this case is about whether a search engine is facilitating copyright infringement when it attempts to make money by (a) giving its users a list of websites that infringe copyrights and (b) giving its users a list of websites that give usernames and passwords. In fact, it might even be argued that a search engine gives out passwords, itself, by offering website snippets (i.e., you type in a search term and the data you're looking for appear in the search result snippet such that you don't even have to go visit the page; I do this to find phone numbers for local restaurants).

An analogy might be Kazaa (or any other file sharing network) which does not, in itself, violate copyrights but which does facilitate copyright infringement. A more clear-cut example might be credit card information. Would a search engine remove from its index a website that lists names and credit card numbers? If so, why wouldn't it also remove lists of usernames and passwords?

Having said that, however, maybe this is about caching, also, since if a search engine's cache contains information that is a violation of copyright, I can see a company wanting to sue to get that page removed from public access.

The other issue, I believe, is whether a search engine is legally required to remove websites from its index when it's been notified that the website in question is in violation of the DMCA or other law.

7:20 pm on Nov 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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One very obvious difference between Google and Kazaa is that kazaa is the vehicle for the infringement, it happens over their network. Google only points you to the information on how to infringe.

But an even bigger difference is that everyone involved in the case would understand that the vast majority of the traffic on google has absolutely noting to do with copyright infringement. The judge and all the lawyers will have all used it on a daily basis to research cases and do christmas shopping.

On the other hand, even though kazaa has some non-infringing uses, everyone in the world knows that the majority of the traffic on it is related to distibuting copyrighted material without permission (though in some cases, i.e. Canada, it is still not infringement)

And all those people that use google daily, such as judges and legislators, will make sure that search engines are not shut down, or even greatly hampered by something like this. They will not go out of their way to protect "cached" but they will write search engines in as the equivalent of common carriers if they have to.

9:50 pm on Nov 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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They might not be shut down but I'm pretty sure that search engines will have to stop doing some of the legally-questionable things they currently do (e.g., caching, not replying to copyright infringement claims, not removing illegal websites from the index, etc.).
11:30 pm on Nov 29, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The whole "common carrier" thing has been resolved. That was part of the purpose of the DMCA. That's why DMCA takedown notices came into existence. If ISPs, search engines, etc. follow proper procedure for handling those notices, they're freed from liability for the actions of others--or at least, they're supposed to be. See the Napster case for an example of courts simply ignoring multiple laws that made the defendent's behavior legal (DMCA and AHRA in the Napster case).
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