Feb 1, 2006

The copyright debate

As like most of their other offerings, Google News is a great utility for Net users to stay updated on the world around them. Unlike Yahoo and others who offer similar services, Google News is completely automated - the Googlebots scour the Web and deliver the cream, all at one easy to access location. But that may end soon if some newspaper websites can prove that they have been wronged.

The World Association of Newspapers have brought a suit against Google, claiming copyright infringement. They argue that Google is using their content- headlines, stories, even photographs, in its own website and they are suffering as a result. Let us examine that argument.

If you have used Google News, you would know that it is categorised into sections like sports, business, science and technology, etc. Once a category is selected, news snippets from various websites are shown, one after the other. The point to be noted is that the whole content is not displayed; instead, a link to the original website is given. If a particular item catches your attention, you click that link and read the whole thing on that website.

Another important thing is that Google News does not carry advertisements. (Not yet, anyway.) Apparently, Google is not getting any benefit from this service and it doesn't pass off the content as its own either. It even links to the original websites. Personally, as a regular user of Google News, I have visited hundreds of websites that I would otherwise never had. I fail to see the rationale behind this lawsuit brought forward by these websites which raises the issue of copyright in a manner that seems to beat their cause rather than help it. Talk about cutting your own leg with your axe.

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