January 25, 2006 | By Fred von Lohmann

Google Cache Ruled Fair Use

A district court in Nevada has ruled that the Google Cache is a fair use.

Blake Field, an author and attorney, brought the copyright infringement lawsuit against Google after the search engine automatically copied and cached a story he posted on his website. The district court found that Mr. Field "attempted to manufacture a claim for copyright infringement against Google in hopes of making money from Google's standard [caching] practice." Google responded that its Google Cache feature, which allows Google users to link to an archival copy of websites indexed by Google, does not violate copyright law.

The court granted summary judgment in favor of Google on four independent bases:

  • Serving a webpage from the Google Cache does not constitute direct infringement, because it results from automated, non-volitional activity by Google servers (Field did not allege infringement on the basis of the making of the initial copy by the Googlebot);
  • Field's conduct (failure to set a "no archive" metatag; posting "allow all" robot.txt header) indicated that he impliedly licensed search engines to archive his web page;
  • The Google Cache is a fair use; and
  • The Google Cache qualifies for the DMCA's 512(b) caching "safe harbor" for online service providers.

The decision is replete with interesting findings that could have important consequences for the search engine industry, the Internet Archive, the Google Library Project lawsuit, RSS republishing, and a host of other online activities.

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