Google speak on copyright: content owners beware

Google speak on copyright: content owners beware

Summary: Google’s blog manifesto today “Our approach to content” (see “Google: Web friend or Web foe”) aims to portray Google as a champion of content owners’ rights. In typical Google fashion, Google took the blog route to indignantly put forth the Google “approach” and pre-released the blog post to chosen blogger few.

TOPICS: Google

Google’s blog manifesto today “Our approach to content” (see “Google: Web friend or Web foe”) aims to portray Google as a champion of content owners’ rights. In typical Google fashion, Google took the blog route to indignantly put forth the Google “approach” and pre-released the blog post to chosen blogger few.

What Google apparently fails to realize, however, is that irregardless of its determined efforts to control and manipulate public opinion, Google statements, whether in print or in person, consistently reflect blatant Google-centric interpretations of the topic at hand. Today’s post on content is no exception.


Google begins with an uplifting ode; The Internet effectively democratizes “access to human knowledge” and continues with its ace in the hole, we aim to “help organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”


Google acknowledges it needs content (information) to organize and also acknowledges that it does not own any content. From that point on, however, Google speak takes over:

  • we respect copyright
  • we let owners choose whether we index their content in our products

While Google declares “we respect copyright,” it does not put forth a single way that it respects copyright. Google’s “Respecting copyright” paragraph simply states the ways in which Google uses content protected by copyright through an aggressive “fair use” legal strategy (also see “Google, YouTube: multi-billion dollar ‘fair-use’ bets”): 

those laws also encourage others to make use of content in limited ways. That's why newspapers are allowed to include short quotations from in-copyright books in their reviews. That's also why search engines can show snippets (small excerpts) of text in their results. Copyright owners benefit from these types of usage because they help to publicize their works.

Google cites Google News and Google Book Search as examples of how “Google protects copyright in practice.”


In both applications, Google dangles promises of bountiful search traffic eagerly clicking on news “headlines” and book “snippets.” Google’s promises of link love, however, are merely ephemeral IOUs, without any tangible, guaranteed return on copyright exploitation.


What is certain, however, is that Google gains no-cost access to content, which it can sell ads against.


Google also declares that it lets “content owners choose” and respects the “wishes of content owners.” Google says no need for “opt-in” to Google index, content owners can always “opt-out.” Google’s cavalier disregard for the constraints of the real world of small business third-party Web hosting makes one question if Google will ever understand the coveted local and SME market.


The most troublesome aspect of Google’s content pleading today, however, is what it doesn’t discuss: Google caching of the entire Web. In “Google: Web friend or Web foe,” I present the dangers of Google caching to content owners:

Google makes a duplicate copy of the entire content of each Web page it crawls for indexing and then keeps the copy it created, and subsequently controls, within its own storage facilities. Google’s caching of third-party Web content, and display of the copied, cached content in Google’s core search results without content owners’ explicit permission, usurps management, control and ownership of the content from the actual creators and owners of the content.

If a Web site owner removes an expired Web page from its own site, the expired content will remain alive and well within Google and will be indefinitely available to be presented as a Google search query result. Google’s copying, caching and displaying of third-party Web page content makes Google the must-go-to destination for the world’s expired content, while also stripping content owners of full interest in, and control of, the content they created.

The “Official Google Blog” post today may be short, but it is backed up by $122 billion in market capitalization. Content owners can take heart, however, that Google is not immune to the world’s copyright laws, as I put forth in “Google not above law, publishes Belgian copyright infringement ruling

Topic: Google

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  • ridiculous

    You must be kidding. Clearly you don't understand how the Internet works. Without Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask, I wouldn't have found your meaningless ramblings. And guess what, you can absolutely block Google from indexing them. Beauty of the Internet, is you can actually block all the search engines. Then you can just talk to yourself in the corner of your room. Good luck.
  • Complete Fallacy


    Why are we all going after a wonderful company like Google that utilizes the finest in OSS? Why are we going after the one company that managed to get search right? We should all be going after the one and ONLY evil empire on this planet:


    Microsoft is a convicted monopolist, not Google. Microsoft obtains IP and patents through hostile take overs, bribery, and outright coercion! Google, on the other hand, stands for the sharing and open sourcing of information. All information should be free, anyway. Why we wrap ourselves up in these silly discussions over content owner's rights is beyond me. They make their money! Remember, Microsoft is the enemy, here!


  • Google is good

    I still think Google has its act together. No company is perfect, but Google does a lot more right than wrong.
  • Google

    A library is allowed to own content created by others, redistribute it, index it and allow the index to be publicly available.

    Google is acting as a digital library. Its indexing of content should be protected by copywrite fair use.

    What might be in dispute is whether it should purchase a copy of every book it indexes. If the book is in print, why not. If the book is out of print, how can it.

    If Google can create a market for obscure information, why should content owners who benefit object?
  • You don't understand copyright

    I think the problem here is that you are assuming copyright grants more than it actually does. Copyright grants a very limited monopoly to the holder, it does not grant carte blanche power over every possible use of the content. Google is indeed well within the law with their usage. It seems the big issue is that Google is profiting. This just feeds into today's content-owner attitude, that if anything related to the content has value, I should be profiting from it. And there is no inherent right to such things.

    Note that what you propose for owners of newspapers and magazines also applies to owners of websites. If Google is no longer allowed to spider and cache content from any website without explicit permission from the owner of that website, then we will no longer have search engines as useful tools. The same goes for Yahoo, MSN, Lycos, etc., etc.

    Also, "irregardless" is not a word. Save yourself two letters and just use "regardless".
    tic swayback
  • Copyright owners and GREED!

    I can't believe that you work on ZDnet and have such a view of what a search engine does. Your writing was very subjective and in favor of one side of the equation (copyright owners / content owners). Content providers are just looking for ways to get more money. Just imagine what a mess it would be if the search engines would not index the contents of the Internet or at least copyright material. It would be like before the Internet where the big corporations controlled the access of information to the public. Content providers & copyright owners better start adapting to the reality of a world where people can access and manipulate information anywhere and anytime and stop trying to enforce control on information and culture.
  • problem with google? take it off the internet

    Content owners beware? Remove your content from PUBLIC access and you won't have a problem. If you want to protect your valuable content, put it on the private side of your problems then, eh?

    Content owners want a cut of the ad revenue for their PUBLIC content? Pay an "indexing" tax instead. I'd love to see these "valuable" content owners provide a service such as google or yahoo it cheap to index the entire internet in a useful way?

    Shut up.
    • Even easier

      Just use a spiders.txt file and stop Google from seeing what you don't want them spidering and caching. Problem solved.
      tic swayback
  • RE: Google speak on copyright: content owners beware