Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Quoting online equals plagiarism? - Google v Copiepresse

Are you familiar with Google News? It's a search engine of many of the news sources which means it refers consumers who go online in search for news to related websites that might deliver what they are looking for. If a publisher does not want to be listed on Google News, he has a choice to opt out or limit its listing, so you should not immediately assume on one hand that you will find all the information you are looking for on Google News, and on the other hand that Google News took over content of other publishers for its own use without acknowledging their rights to it. Or did it?

In 2007 Google News lost a suit filed against them by Copiepresse - representative of French and German language newspapers in Belgium. The claim was that Google News infringed copyrights of certain newspapers by placing headlines and quotes from their articles on its index. In the past week, Google News lost an appeal against this ruling.

The BEUC, the European consumers' organisation, said that this ruling creates a dangerous precedent, since it restricts Internet users by enforcing strict exclusive copyrights. After all, what harm may come from Google referring consumers to websites of relevant publishers by using quotes from their publications and giving direct links to the source? Isn't it what most of us does online anyhow? Imagine me referring to you this development. I found an interesting article about it online (on Computerworld website) and now I'm giving you my opinion thereof (enriching it with more data that I found on Computerworld website). Does it mean I'm infringing Computerworld's copyright? Well, if that were true, how are we supposed to benefit from using internet? Plagiarism is wrong, we know that, but if credit is given to the original creator, isn't spreading its/his name (and glory), a desirable thing? You might say that Google News doesn't fill in the missing gaps, like I just did and it just repeats the original content. But isn't that what quotes are for? Again, if you refer it back to the author and don't claim it as your own piece of news, it shouldn't be legally relevant...

It is interesting how this matter will be approached (if it will be approached at all) in the upcoming review of the Directive 2004/48/EC on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. On the 7th of June in Brussels there will be a public hearing on this Directive and the challenges posed by the digital environment. You may find details on this hearing on the EC website.

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