Jonathan Zittrain on Search Engines - Dictionary of Arguments
Search Engines/Zittrain: place. The act of creating a search engine, like the act of surfing itself, is something so commonplace that it would be difficult to imagine deeming it illegal—but this is not to say that search engines rest on any stronger of a legal basis than the practice of using robots.txt to determine when it is and is not appropriate to copy and archive a Web site. (1) Only recently, with Google’s book scanning project, have copyright holders really begun to test this kind of question. (2) That challenge has arisen over the scanning of paper books, not
Web sites, as Google prepares to make them searchable in the same way Google has indexed the Web. (3) The long-standing practice of Web site copying, guided by robots.txt, made that kind of indexing uncontro-versial even as it is, in theory, legally cloudy. The lasting lesson from robots.txt is that a simple, basic standard created by people of good faith can go a long way toward resolving or forestalling a problem containing strong ethical or legal dimensions.
1. Google prevailed, on a particularly favorable fact pattern, against one author-plaintiff challenging the search engine’s copying and distribution of his copyrighted works. Field v. Google, 412 F. Supp. 2d 1106 (D. Nev. 2006) (finding Google’s copying and distribution of the copyrighted works through cached links to be a fair use on grounds that offering access through its cache serves important social purposes and transforms rather than supersedes the original author’s use).
2. See Complaint, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. v. Google, No. 05-CV-8881 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 19, 2005).
3. See Complaint, Author’s Guild v. Google, No. 05-CV-8136 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 20, 2005).
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The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It New Haven 2009