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Google Wins a Court Battle 272

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the justice-served dept.
Gosalia wrote to let us know about an article which opens with: "In a legal win for Google, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a writer who claimed the search giant infringed on his copyright by archiving a Usenet posting of his and providing excerpts from his Web site in search results." Thankfully, we can all still read Usenet articles on Google as well as other archive services.
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Google Wins a Court Battle

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  • Gtalk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by skaet (841938) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:19AM (#14939653) Homepage
    Can't wait until people try to sue Google for saving their Gtalk conversations....
  • by arrrrg (902404) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:23AM (#14939670)
    but the war is still to come. It's interesting to contrast this with their recent loss against Perfect 10. Compared to the lawsuits from the publishers and the US government, this one seems like an easy victory.
  • Strange Decision (Score:3, Interesting)

    by poopdeville (841677) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:25AM (#14939679)
    However, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled on Friday that under case law, Google's activities, akin to those of an Internet Service Provider, do not constitute infringement.
    "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," the court said.

    Strange. While Google Groups provide a valuable service, I don't see how creating an archive of billions of copyrighted works makes Google immune from individual lawsuits. Could I compile and serve a complete archive of everything available from the Pirate Bay and get the same protection? I wouldn't think so.

  • by this great guy (922511) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:29AM (#14939697)

    I have always wondered what those guys suing for anything _really_ think ? For example, does this guy honestly thought Google was violating his copyright ? Or did he sue just to give a try and maybe obtain easy money via financial compensation ?

  • Re:Strange Decision (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:41AM (#14939749) Homepage Journal
    Archiving and redistributing aren't the same thing.

    Sure they are. Google just happens to run an NNTP server with a pretty interface and a long expiration time. There're tens of thousands of messages stored on my own server, reader for public distribution, at this very moment.

    What if I posted a licence with my content stating that only nntp servers and individuals could redistribute what I have posted?

    As long as we're throwing out goofy ideas: what if I scream into a restaurant that no one is allowed to tell anyone else what I'm about to say?

    When you contract with a carrier of a wide-open public medium to deliver your message to the world, you have no right to expect that another carrier of that medium won't deliver to someone you didn't expect, or in a form you didn't anticipate.

  • Re:Strange Decision (Score:1, Interesting)

    by poopdeville (841677) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:52AM (#14939792)
    Wow, the google fanboys are out in force tonight. Storage and redistribution are not the same thing, no matter how much you'd like it to be. For instance, I have a very large archive of MP3s from CD's I've bought. I cannot legally redistribute them without the copyright holder's consent.

    When you contract with a carrier of a wide-open public medium to deliver your message to the world, you have no right to expect that another carrier of that medium won't deliver to someone you didn't expect, or in a form you didn't anticipate.

    Of course, this is why redistribution of NFL telecasts is perfectly legal. Because the NFL doesn't have the right to dictate the terms of their content's redistribution. Indeed, they wouldn't sue you for redistribution without written consent of both the NFL and the television station broadcasting the content. A similar example can be made with reference to radio, music, and the RIAA.

    Sorry, you're wrong. As a copyright holder, I do have the right to dictate how my content is distributed.

    This is in fact why google got burned for images.google.com, as mentioned in the article.

  • Thankfully? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by penguin-collective (932038) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:00AM (#14939815)
    Thankfully, we can all still read Usenet articles on Google as well as other archive services.

    Web-based reading of USENET is fine; the problem is with archiving: USENET was originally not intended to be archived, and the fact that it is being archived has greatly changed it. Anybody who, these days, makes a controversial contribution to a USENET forum under his real name is a bloody fool. There is no point debating this anymore: unrestricted archiving of USENET news has become de-facto accepted. But that doesn't make it right or a good thing.
  • disturbing asymmetry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by penguin-collective (932038) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:03AM (#14939827)
    Well, I generally like Google, but this is a disturbing asymmetry to me.

    When an individual posts something to USENET, then apparently it's OK for companies like Google to archive and republish that stuff, even making money from it if they put advertising on the same page.

    But how is that different from broadcasting? It seems to me that if what Google is doing is OK, then I should be able to record, archive, and republish any music or other programming broadcast over the Internet or airwaves.
  • Re:Strange Decision (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:04AM (#14939834) Homepage Journal
    I think I'm being trolled, but I'm waiting for Quickbooks to fire up inside Qemu and I've got some time to kill.

    Storage and redistribution are not the same thing, no matter how much you'd like it to be. For instance, I have a very large archive of MP3s from CD's I've bought. I cannot legally redistribute them without the copyright holder's consent.

    But when storage is one of the primary design requirements, they're close enough to the same thing for gov'mnt work. This isn't like SMTP, where servers are expected to delete messages after they've passed on. Rather, NNTP servers are required to store their traffic for a while - that's how the system works.

    So, Google just happens to have an undefined expiration time on their NNTP server, and have provided a web interface to it. What else are they doing that every other NNTP server in the world is not?

    Sorry, you're wrong. As a copyright holder, I do have the right to dictate how my content is distributed.

    Not always. I'd be interested in hearing you explain to the judge how you released your message with the explicit goal of unlimited worldwide distribution, but don't want it distributed. It's not like you can accidentally post to Usenet; you had to jump through hoops to put your words out there. What would a reasonable person expect to happen to them once they've entered the global network of computers designed to spread them around?

  • Troll (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:13AM (#14939866)
    My jaw dropped when I started reading this article... I was surprised that this guy has made the news.

    Gordon Roy Parker is the resident troll on various Usenet groups. He has been around for years, and alternates between posting nonsense disguised as an informed opinion and accusing other posters of plagiarizing his writing. I think he may also sell an e-book about seduction.

    Here are some references [google.com]
  • Re:Strange Decision (Score:2, Interesting)

    by poopdeville (841677) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:18AM (#14939880)
    I'm sincere.

    To answer your question, there is no law or document that I know of that says that usenet posts are automatically part of the public domain, which is what would be required for "unlimited" distribution. Feel free to point me to an authoritative source if you know of any.

    In the meantime, I'll give you the example that motivated my comments. Parts of the Linux kernel are stored in the Google Groups archive. Does this mean that the GPL for Linux has been invalidated? Of course not. It means that Google must respect the GPL vis a vis the messages containing GPLed code. Before this case, the precedent was that if Google didn't, and Linus was feeling unrealistically cranky, he could sue for copyright infringment.

    (If you really must, think about a different usenet service provider offering binaries of Debian or something)

  • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:26AM (#14939903) Journal
    USENET was originally not intended to be archived

    You always had a choice in the matter via the "X-noarchive" flag. It would have made an interesting case if he had set "X-noarchive: yes" in his posting and Google (and DejaNews before them) had ignored it.

  • Re:Strange Decision (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rakishi (759894) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:22AM (#14940042)
    Check court cases, there is the concept of implied license. For example, web browsers are given an implied license by web site owners to copy content for viewing purposes.
  • Re:Good for Google! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by solarbob (959948) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:08AM (#14940162) Homepage
    prehaps the innvoation is what is scaring people as I know you can go out there now, google someones name and come up with a lot of info and its putting it in easy reach of all users. Of course the argument would be that if you didn't want it to be out there you shouldn't of published something in the first place but when it comes to 3rd party information at least google gives you the option to ask to have it removed, even if it does take a few weeks,months,years
  • Re:Cash Grab Suit? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by onedotzero (926558) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:30AM (#14940219) Homepage
    Perhaps. But with regards to Usenet, that's exactly what X-No-Archive [wikipedia.org] is for.

    --
    onedotzero
    thedigitalfeed.co.uk [thedigitalfeed.co.uk]
  • Re:Cash Grab Suit? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by solarbob (959948) on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:34AM (#14940233) Homepage
    If the caches do become illegal what happens to http://www.archive.org/ [archive.org] Surely it would just collapse?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @03:59AM (#14940285)
    So it's now confirmed that everyone has ISP status if they are just passing packets!
    So open up your wireless access point!
    Use it for denyability when filesharing!
    This is great for filesharing programs that pass packets "automatically and temporarily" as part of their protocol (always in proxy mode) such as MUTE http://www.planetpeer.de/wiki/index.php [planetpeer.de] (info link).
    It's too bad it's only U.S. District Court and not from an appeal.

    "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," the court said.

  • Re:Thankfully? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by penguin-collective (932038) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:03AM (#14940293)
    Archiving was certainly never required, but conversely it was never forbidden, as far as I know.

    I'm confused--are you trying to make a legal argument? A technical argument? Or what? Because I'm not.

    I'm saying: USENET was used by its users with the expectation that it was an ephemeral medium. Regardless of what laws or RFCs allowed or didn't allow, that's the ground rules most people assumed and most people acted in accordance with. Now that it has become clear that it is being archived, that has changed the way users behave. Are you disputing that?

    Debating fine legalistic points at this point is useless. The court has spoken. Clearly, companies have wide latitude in archiving, repurposing, and republishing anything individuals put on the web or on USENET, without the permission of those individuals. I think that's bad, but we'll have to live with the consequences.
  • Re:Thankfully? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mce (509) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:18AM (#14940334) Homepage Journal
    I'm saying: USENET was used by its users with the expectation that it was an ephemeral medium.

    Not in my case, at least. I've been on USENET since 1988 and I never had that expectation. In fact, I have complained a few times to the relevant administrators that they were expiring stuff too quickly, as I wanted to go back in history looking for references.

    What's more, that fact that Google can dig up some of my posts dating from at least 1992 also means that it was non-ephemeral. There was no Google back then, remember?

  • by babbling (952366) on Friday March 17, 2006 @04:59AM (#14940452)
    The thing about Google is, they have a lot of interests in the same places as normal people. For example, normal people have an interest in more powerful "fair use" clauses when it comes to copyright, and so does Google. (Google Book Search)

    These interests are almost opposite to the interests of most other big companies. Whereas most companies want to restrict anyone from using their copyrighted works without paying them, Google *NEED* to use copyrighted works without paying for them.
  • Re:Cash Grab Suit? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:18AM (#14940500)
    It's not just a cash grab. This guy is an internet menace. Not a year goes by he doesn't sue somebody for big bucks, makes legal threats about people for banning him from various forums and chatrooms, and claims he has IP rights to any kind of commercial products these people come up with becaus HE came up with these first, and everyone stole it from him, and they all lock him out because everyone has a huge cartel/agenda against him.

    Hence he sues and sues and sues and keeps getting laughed out of court. He's a lunatic who will stop at noghing to ruin a perceived competitor's life - A LOT of people have had to move, change names, etc, because this guy knows just enough law to never be touched yet harrass other people online.

    It's a reall sad thing he got this much attention on slashdot :(
  • IANAL, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hummassa (157160) on Friday March 17, 2006 @05:37AM (#14940541) Homepage Journal
    AFAIK down here publishing something on the internet is considered "public performance" and the copyrights over a "bootleg" are somewhat confusing. There /is/ some caselaw considering recordings of shows (done not-for-profit) as non-infringing.
  • Re:Cash Grab Suit? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jcr (53032) <.jcr. .at. .mac.com.> on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:41AM (#14940675) Journal
    To me, his suit smells like a cash grab.

    Got it on the very first guess!

    Gordon Roy Parker, to whom I usually refer as "grp" (rhymes with twerp), having nothing better to do, likes to waste the taxpayers' money on frivolous lawsuits like this one where he demanded ten billion(!) dollars from Google and fifty thousand(!) John Does for having archived a newsgroup. One of his other hilarious escapades was suing U. Penn for discrimination against him because he's a white male(!), when he didn't even apply for a job there!

    He's up for a lifetime "Balsa Gavel" award in alt.usenet.kooks.

    -jcr
  • by agentofchange (640684) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:41AM (#14940679)
    So now you have to take steps to keep your content off Google or any number of other companies servers? That's not right - an opt-in service makes more sense. Having an opt out service requires that the site owner keeps themselves apprised of every person who wants to copy their content without asking.
  • Re:Cash Grab Suit? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:11AM (#14940751)
    Top-posting? On Slashdot?!? In a discussion on Usenet!!??!!

    What is the world coming to?
  • Not so fast... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday March 17, 2006 @08:04AM (#14940911)
    At that point, it is no longer "your" post anyway, so you have no right to say if the reply should also have X-No-Archive. Unless someone considers quoting copyright infringment as well [...]

    And there's your sticking point. If the original poster has explicitly indicated that they do not wish their post to be archived, it seems pretty clear that copying their material in a way that will be archived is an infringement of their copyright.

    Usenet archives essentially rely on an "implied permission" defence to any charges of copyright infringement: they argue that if the person posted the comment, then are giving implicit permission to copy the post for the purposes of circulating it on Usenet, and archiving is just joining in with that network. Regardless of anyone's personal opinion, there is clearly some logic behind this position, and it's a fair case to make.

    However, if the poster has explicitly indicated that they do not wish to have their post archived permanently, then there is clearly no implicit permission to do so, and keeping it beyond a normal period (which I'm guessing most Usenet users would describe in terms of weeks) would be an infringement.

    Similarly, it's the accepted convention that someone replying to a Usenet post should quote properly. At least, it used to be; today, the law might view quoting improperly a la Microsoft and Google Groups to be the accepted convention. :-( In any case, one could again make a reasonable argument that implicit permission has been given by the poster to copy relevant excerpts of the original post for the purpose of preserving context in subsequent discussion.

    Again, however, if the poster has explicitly denied their permission to archive their material permanently, then you can't really argue that they're giving implicit permission to copy their material in a way that will be preserved essentially forever. Quoting such a post without marking your own post as not-for-archiving itself might be dubious, and I'd have to conclude that archiving the material via that indirect route was a clear violation of the original poster's copyright.

    The bottom line is that all of these archiving systems are on shaky legal ground as long as they're opt-out, because being on the Internet does not somehow preempt the accepted conventions of copyright law. (Neither do the opinions of a few people on Slashdot whose personal view is that copyright is wrong and the law doesn't apply to them, incidentally.) One could at least argue a reasonable defence of things like Google Groups and the Wayback Machine on the basis of implied consent, but if that consent has been explicitly withheld (via X-No-Archive, robots.txt or whatever) then really, it's hard to see how any service archiving such material via any means has a legal leg to stand on.

  • Re:Gtalk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday March 17, 2006 @09:55AM (#14941546) Homepage Journal
    Which in turn makes it easier to prove it was you who sent the message, for example if your partner later decides to betray you.

    You wouldn't use a private key, for Pete's sake - you'd use symmetric encryption. You, your accomplice, and an unverifiably large set of strangers would all know the shared passphrase, and each of you could plausibly deny that the other encrypted it.

    If you're going to conspire, you'll have to be more clever than that.

  • Gordon Roy Parker so hates his own name he goes by the alias of Ray Gordon, which is also the name of a U.K. writer of erotica, and some people confuse the two of them. He hangs out on the usenet newsgroup alt.seduction.fast [seduction.fast] (or on Google Groups via the Web here [google.com].).

    Parker is a nutcase, a man who has serious (admitted) mental problems and doesn't seem to care how he alienates anyone who reads what he has to say, and apparently thrives on causing dissention. He is basically one of the funniest floor shows if you like watching crazy people act in an insane fashion. His detractors that post comments against him are almost as crazy as he is, and add to the hilarity of the situation there.

    Here's the situation on this lawsuit. Mr. Parker has written some books on how to seduce women, but his own stellar lack of success in doing so over the past few years plus the ineffectiveness of his ideas means he has essentially had to give away his books for free since no one will pay to read what he has to say. This compares with a number of men who make money through paid seminars in telling other men how to do exactly this. These men have been fairly successful in their conquests and tell other men how to learn to be able to do the same thing. Since Mr. Parker is unable to do this and can't teach anyone how since he doesn't have the slightest hint of a clue, all he can do is whine about it and threaten to sue anyone who disagrees with him.

    Well, Google - as it does for millions of other sites - cached the information on his website (where his books were available for downloading) in order to allow others to be able to search and find it. He didn't know that he can mark his site so Google won't do that, and then when he tried to change the status of one of his books from giving it away to charging for it, then discovered people could obtain the book for free from Google by using the cached copy, Gordo decided to sue Google. As with the other six lawsuits he's filed in Federal court (I'm not kidding), he lost again. Again I'm not kidding, Gordon has filed at least six cases in federal court and lost every one of them. A federal judge referred to his ability to handle a lawsuit as "... Plaintiff Gordon Roy Parker's... continued and inexcusable failure..." {Gordon Roy Parker v. "Wintermute" et. al.} 02-CV-7215 (Feb. 25, 2003, Federal District Court, Eastern District, Pennsylvania). The only other item on the world-wide-web referred to as a "continued and inexcusable failure" is the U.N. screwup in Kosovo that got people killed.

    It's said that you're not really a member of the newsgroup alt.seduction.fast until Ray threatens to sue you. He's threatened me with a lawsuit over my comments at least four times in something over two years I've been reading postings there. When I first got there I defended him because I thought he was being unfairly targeted by just about everyone else, but over time, from his own words, I learned just how much of a miserable misanthrope he is. He hates himself for what has happened to him, hates everyone else because most of the time he makes wild claims without proof, says things that don't make much sense or are completely wrong.

    He's also known for being a bully and the only thing he respects are people who won't back down from his threats. All he's ever done is threaten me with a lawsuit because he knows I'd clean his clock in a New York minute with a countersuit if he did actually sue me.

    One of the things he posted - on September 11, 2001 - was that everyone who died in the two towers deserved what they got, primarily because he wasn't hired by some companies that work there. He's referred to some of the people (women in general) who died there as "office whores," mainly because he couldn't get hired (probably because he's just as unpleasant in person as he is on USENET.) While he's entitled to his opinion, to make such a spiteful comment

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal

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