Friday, March 17, 2006

Google Wins Court Battle, Caching is Fair Use

CNet reports that in the case of Parker v Google, the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has dismissed a writer's suit against Google for copyright infringement, agreeing with a Nevada ruling that caching does not constitute infringement.

What seems key is that Google's search technology is completely automated, as the court said:
When an ISP automatically and temporarily stores data without human intervention so that the system can operate and transmit data to its users, the necessary element of volition (willful intent to infringe) is missing.
I've been reading Arribasoft and Perfect 10 in trying to distill the rules for image searches and nowhere have I come across the requirement of a "willful intent to infringe." It would seem unfair for the law to come out one way for pictures and another for text, and even more unfair if courts are picking and choosing which copyright laws they feel like following.

This Court, as the Nevada court in Field v. Google ruled, figured that Google's database falls under the "safe harbor" provision of the DMCA, which protects databases, ISPs, and other online service providers from liability if they don't exert direct control over what content is posted on their sites. Neither court in Arribasoft nor Perfect 10 addressed this issue.

Parker vowed to appeal, stating that the court doesn't understand what caching means and claiming that Google qualifies as a third-party republication.
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