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Google Faces Lawsuit Over News Copyright

   
1:04 pm on Mar 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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[money.cnn.com...]

The French news service is seeking damages of at least $17.5 million and an order barring Google News from displaying AFP photographs, news headlines or story leads, according to the suit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
6:57 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This is like saying a bookstore is unfairly profiting from authors' work because it displays their book titles without paying authors for the right to display the titles. This is not how copyright works. Copyright doesn't give you the right to prevent people from telling others that your book/article/webpage whatever exists.

You can't copyright facts. "George Washington was president of the U.S." is a fact and you can't sue me for saying so, even if you once typed those exact words before I did.

You can't copyright your personal name and forbid others from mentioning it without your permission (although I think some people have tried this). And you can't claim that the title to your news article is copyrighted and that no one else can use it in referring to your article. That's what names and titles are for -- making it possible for people to describe things.

There is a big difference between reproducing an entire article and linking to an article using its headline and/or the first sentence or two. All the link does is make it possible for someone to access the article -- and all the link text does is give readers some idea what they're getting when they click.

Maybe syndication services are finding demand for their articles from publishers diminished because hundreds of other publishers have the same article and it's all on the Internet. But that doesn't mean Google is violating copyright by telling people the articles exist and linking to them.

7:11 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the link.

Looks great, and by checking all the appropriate boxes (and not just selecting a single piece)... Google's use of AFP article seems to be on the Fair Use side.

Just on the "PURPOSE" section it is already in the Fair Use category...

(Isn't parody a form of entertainment? So... it's ok to make parody but no other form of entertainment can be made of a written product? Paper airplanes are out then... Indiana University might want to review the list just a bit.)

7:17 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It's public. If you publish something on the internet then you're publishing it to the public. If you don't want it to be public then publish it on your INTRAnet, not the internet.

So a scraper site that uses snippets from your website with Adsense ads is OK?

7:24 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This could be the beginning of the end for free-to-read news sites.

No. It will be the end of websites that aggregate content from news sites withtout those news sites' permission. Other web news aggregators actually partner with and get permission from their news sources.

Regarding Fair Use, what Google is doing does not fall under "fair use". I'm no lawyer, but, I know how to read a law and look at case law that supports it.

7:26 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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you can't claim that the title to your news article is copyrighted and that no one else can use it in referring to your article

Sorry, but, yes, you can.

7:29 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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There is a big difference between reproducing an entire article and linking to an article using its headline and/or the first sentence or two. All the link does is make it possible for someone to access the article -- and all the link text does is give readers some idea what they're getting when they click.

If you were running a news website would you be happy if I were running a new aggregation site where people could read all of your headlines and the first few words of the article thus reducing the number of visitors to your site? Of course not.

7:38 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Who is paying the journalists that are working on the news stories? Here is my 2 cents unless permission is granted, or the news is released via RSS an easy way to distribute news to the search engines the story belongs to the news agency and they have the right how the news is disseminated.
8:03 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If you were running a news website would you be happy if I were running a new aggregation site

If I didn't want people reading my articles, I wouldn't put them online. And again, it's not the news sites that are complaining, it is the news syndicate. If they don't want their articles online, they need to specify that in their contracts with the news sites.

(And linking to a site doesn't reduce the number of visitors, it increases the number of visitors. Not many people get all their news from headlines - that's why newspapers publish articles, not just headlines. And that's why the headlines on magazines and newspapers aren't hidden before you buy them; they are in plain sight because publishers want you to see them.)

As far as titles being copyrighted, let's try an experiment. Look what I am typing now: "The Sun Also Rises." Let's see if the Hemingway estate sues me.

[edited by: Fairla at 8:10 pm (utc) on Mar. 21, 2005]

8:08 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If Google News really falls within Fair Use (which I doubt) than anyone can take the output of Google News and republish it. Google would still have rights to design and layout, but the content would be fair game to everyone.
8:21 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Looks great, and by checking all the appropriate boxes (and not just selecting a single piece)... Google's use of AFP article seems to be on the Fair Use side.

If you look at the EFFECT section ("Could replace sale of copyrighted work" and "Significantly impairs market or potential market for copyrighted work or derivative") you can see what AFP is complaining about.

8:23 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Fairla, could you post your research or a link to the research that news aggregators increase pageviews for news websites?

As far as titles being copyrighted, let's try an experiment. Look what I am typing now: "The Sun Also Rises." Let's see if the Hemingway estate sues me.

You're using it within a fair use context. Google is not.

9:07 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Well, that's for a court to decide, isn't it.

You know, long before there was an Internet, there were aggragators. They are called libraries. You can go into a library and read everything for free. (And not just books -- libraries often used to collect newspapers, too.)

Even if AFP is being put out of business by Google and Google alone, that does not prove that Google is violating copyright law in this case.

Copyright law doesn't say that copyright holders will be paid every time someone reads their articles. Maybe it should say that. But it doesn't. It just says you can't take a huge chunk of someone else's work and republish it without permission.

But I can buy a newspaper and let 100 or 1000 or one million other people read that copy of the paper without paying the publisher anything at all. I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it is fact. If you think these laws are unfair, maybe you are right, maybe you should work to change them. A lot of writers and publishers would thank you.

9:15 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Oh, OK. You're basing your posts on your interpretation of fair use and your opinion about "how things should be" instead of what fair use law actually says and the courts' interpretaion of what it is. I can't argue against a malformed opinion.
9:22 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hugh, you don't understand copyright law, but that's OK, because the courts do.
9:30 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Could you enlighten us on which defense against infringement, exactly, Google is using? Is it comment or criticism? Is it parody? Is it for eductational use?
11:45 pm on Mar 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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:) :) :) :) :) :) :)

Let us have some levity ladies and gentlemen.

I think we have beat this up well enough. It seems that we have come down on about three areas.

1) Some of us believe Google is completely out of order for using snippets and titles, and should have asked AFP for permission prior to using their content.

2) Some of us believe Google was in the right until AFP asked them to stop and did not. Then Google overstepped their boundries.

3) & there is some of us who believe Google used snippets and titles under the "fair use" clause prior and post AFPs demand.

4) I don't think any of us said, Google can pretty much take whatever they want without impunity.

Do I have it right?

Then let's wait for reality to kick in and see what develops in the courts.

Now, I am going to have a glass of port, and you are all invited.
:) :) :) :) :) :) :)

5:43 am on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Could you enlighten us on which defense against infringement, exactly, Google is using? Is it comment or criticism?

It's statement of fact. Newspapers quote the headlines of other newspapers all the time.

Whatever happened to the netbooster case in Denmark (maybe 2002). Didn't the danish newspapers sue for basically the same thing? But I seem to recall netbooster lost.

5:47 am on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Could this just be a novel marketing ploy by AFP? They have had tonnes of coverage from it and not really all that negative.
6:19 am on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Yes, the last I heard you can't deep-link to Danish news sites. This is really very similar except in that case, I think, it was the news sites themselves that didn't want to be included.

I think the photo part could hurt Google badly. I guess we'll see.

6:59 am on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Just wanted to add my two cents worth in regard to libraries making material available, as mentioned in an earlier post. Here in Australia the Federal Government operates a scheme called the "Public Lending Right Scheme". If a public library owns a copy of your book, you as author receive an annual payment to compensate you for the lost royalties from library patrons reading the book in the library rather than buying their own copy. Currently it is $1.37 a year per copy of each book. For school libraries it is a slightly different figure (which I don't have in front of me).
In other countries I understand the situation is sometimes different- rather than annual payments, libraries are required to pay publishers upfront an increased 'library cost' rather than a retail price.
5:35 pm on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Grabs a glass and joins Tapolyai...cheers:)
7:25 pm on Mar 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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chris, there are only a few defenses to copyright infringement and they are specified by law.

Which one is Google using?

10:13 am on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Writing a headline is an exercise in creativity. I do it every day and it isn't easy. Google duplicates an article's headline and in my opinion is stealing the headline author's creative work.

I have a news service on my site and I link to articles of interest to my audience without stealing the articles' headlines. I do this by reading each article and then writing my own creative headlines. It takes more time and work, but seems like the right thing to do.

I considered duplicating the article's headline on my site at first and decided that copyright infringement would be an issue. I sometimes make an exception when linking to a press release, where it's clear that the author of the press release is encouraging the world to republish the contents of the release.

Copying a complete headline is not the same as taking a snippet in my opinion.

10:36 am on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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In that case spider based search engines should not be allowed to display page titles and content snippets in regular search results?
12:18 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Is a page title any different from a news story headline? That's a good question. The page title that search engines pick up from the title tag is something that many web surfers are unaware of and so use by a search engine in search results seems ok to me. The title tag can be thought of as something to aid others trying to catalog a page, similar to meta tags.

I work hard at making my headlines interesting and catchy, so that people will want to click to view the story. I see a headline as a work that stands on its own in some sense.

If I were free to copy headlines when I link to other stories it would make my job easy to do and easier to automate.

I'm no legal authority. I'm an author. I like to see intellectual property defended and if that means extra work for marketers looking to benefit from the creative work of others, I'm ok with that.

1:21 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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In that case spider based search engines should not be allowed to display page titles and content snippets in regular search results?

It depends. If the website gives them permission through robots.txt or some other mechanism they should be allowed. If they have not been granted liscense they should not be allowed.

12:40 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Just on a side note, does anyone know in which court this is playing out?

I don't want to obfuscate our discussion with real evidence and actual information from the proceedings, so just share it in private if you must. :o

7:35 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Well, I answered my own question.. U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

The results of AFP's lawsuit is already in motion.

Google has begun removing AFP links.

A client of AFP publicly crying to get it back, and suggesting they will sue AFP. The sites headline is "How AFP killed an Online News Site by Suing Google". And they they claim "we have been devastated".

From an other news source "Carrying AFP news is now the kiss of death".

Congrats AFP. There are few and far between that can take down not just themselves but many of their own clients.

Hip hip, Huray! Hip hip, Huray! Hip hip, Huray!

p.s.: For those of you who think Google was out of line, sometimes, it is better just to shut up, and survive the indignity of being the little guy, and eat the crumbs off the table.

Bite the hand that feeds you and you find yourself out on a cold cold street with nothing to eat. Of course you have your dignity and copyrights intact. Maybe you can eat them...

(I still think they were in the "fair use" area :))

1:58 am on Mar 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I was waiting for that... Couldn't figure out why any company would want to mess with inclusion of any kind in the world's most popular search engine.

And if there's any sanity remaining in the courts, they'll lose the suit as well.

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