July 10, 2003
Google's cache, public space, and copyrights

CNET has a report on how Google's cache raises copyright concerns.

"We are working with Google to fix that problem--we're going to close it so when you click on a link it will take you to a registration page," said Christine Mohan, a spokeswoman at New York Times Digital, the publisher of NYTimes.com. "We have established these archived links and want to maintain consistency across all these access points."

Google offers publishers a simple way to opt out of its temporary archive, and scuffles have yet to erupt into open warfare or lawsuits. Still, Google's cache links illustrate a slippery side of innovation on the Web, where cool new features that seem benign on the surface often carry unintended consequences.

BUT: CNET gets it wrong, as does the New York Times and Google for that matter. The problem is not that the pages stay up, but rather that they go away. The approach copyright holders is taking to the webspace (that information presented on the web is really a service, and that copyright holders may discontinue that service) is a threat both to consumers and to public space and to freedom of speech. The CNET piece has ample evidence of this: When some public office publishes material on the web, that material should be a matter of public record - and not something you can yank from the site if it turns out to hold unpleasent surprises for you. The same thing should go for other web content. If you have presented me with information, I should have the implicit right to hang on to that information, simply because my right to hold you accountable for having published the information is essential. Everything in our history tells us that there are no good reasons to hold a contrary position to this and that the right to know is essential for the right to speech to hold any meaning.

Digital copyright law as it exists should be illegal and if we all had good constitutions it would be unconstitutional.

Posted by Claus at July 10, 2003 11:17 AM
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