Google is free to cache whatever material it wants unless content owners specifically forbid the search site from copying and archiving online content, a federal judge ruled last Friday.
The judge dismissed a lawsuit claiming Google had violated an author’s copyright by archiving his Usenet posts and providing excerpts from his Web site in Google’s search results.
Gordon Roy Parker, who is also known as Ray Gordon, filed suit against Google in 2004, after the search engine archived a chapter of one of Parker’s e-books, “29 Reasons Not To Be A Nice Guy.” Gordon had posted the chapter on Usenet, a collective name for the thousands of public discussion forms available online.
Parker filed his original complaint on Aug. 18, 2004, and then filed an amended complaint on Oct. 22, 2004, accusing Google of copyright violations, racketeering, civil conspiracy and negligence, along with other charges. He also named 50,000 “John Doe” defendants in the case.
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled (PDF) last Friday that Google (and all those John Does) did not infringe on Parker’s rights.
“Despite our lenient review of Plaintiff’s Complaint, it is clear that with regard to his claims of copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence, Lanham Act violations and abuse of process, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
“With regard to Plaintiffs racketeering and civil conspiracy claims, the Complaint fails to meet Rule 8(a)’s short and plain statement requirement and will be dismissed,” the court ruling read in part.
In one of his court filings, Parker said Google had “come out swinging” by “unjustly branding him a vexatious litigant.” Parker also claimed that Google had invaded his privacy by creating an “unauthorized biography” of Usenet posts about Parker, many of which Parker says are defamatory.
If Parker, who was not reached for comment by presstime, appeals, he may be fighting precedent. In January, a Nevada federal court ruled in “Field v. Google” that Google’s caching of Web pages is not copyright infringement, a finding that was cited in the Pennsylvania ruling.
The Nevada decision was the result of a court case brought forward by a lawyer, Blake Field, who posted a story on his Web site and later removed it.
He charged copyright infringement when the story appeared in Google’s cache of his site. A cache, in this instance, is a copy of online data that is stored on a server separate from the originator or creator of that data.
Web site owners who choose not to have their material cached by Google need only add some simple text to their Web sites. Usenet posters can decline to be included in Google’s cache by adding ” X-No-Archive: yes” to the headers of their Usenet posts.
The Pennsylvania court, while noting in its ruling that these techniques exist to stop Google from caching content, also added: “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.”
Google was not reachable by presstime for comment.