Another round of criticism has been leveled at Google's publishing plans recently, as opponents ranging from corner bookstores to European publishers accuse the search giant of profiting from their copyrighted work.
A Google spokesman this week repeated the standard response to such charges: "Search engines do not reproduce content. They help users find content by pointing to where it exists on the Web." This navigation part of this comment makes perfect sense, of course. But the issue also raises a question rarely addressed in copyright disputes involving search engines: Do search results, in and of themselves, constitute a new form of content?
In this age of fleeting attention spans, a headline or title and a few words or synopsis often fulfill a person's needs for information. Newspapers, for example, have long known that readers rarely go beyond scanning the headlines and sports scores of any given edition. So while many bloggers say publishers should be thankful for whatever free traffic and marketing they get from the Googles and Yahoos of the world, that relationship works only if surfers are clicking beyond the headlines and summaries they view in their search returns.
Blog community response:
"At some point the issue of securing this content is going to come in to play, as Google will claim the published material is freely available to Web surfers, and that if these publishers wish to prevent their engine from pulling content, then it is up to them to take measures to protect it. We may see a shift in e-commerce business models, with much of the content that you are currently able to browse freely requiring a bit from your pocketbook."
"Folks, this isn't just ignorance, it's a real concern among publishers that, whether you think Google can do no wrong or not, [it] is a real barrier to access to information through the Net. Instead of attacking these people, educate them and exercise some empathy for their situation--just feign it if you must--because that is the bridge to compromise that will change everything. A little political tact and less technical hubris would go a long way."
"I think this is part of the natural process when a company becomes as big as Google. They start getting sued. Lets hope that they don't lose their business values which up till now have been exemplary."