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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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February 27, 2005

Fred von Lohmann on Google's Auto-Link

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Posted by

Fred @ Deep Links:


Google's Auto-Link adds links to certain kinds of content that appears on web pages (like a link to Google Maps for addresses, or Amazon for ISBNs).

Some people (like Dan Gillmor) are viewing this with suspicion. (The Trademark Blog has collected the commentary.) They shouldn't. The issue is simple: Who owns your desktop? You, or the owner of whatever webpage you happen to be browsing?

A meatspace analogy should make this clear: Imagine I have a butler whom I task with going through what drops into my mail slot each morning. His job? To annotate my snail mail. He goes through the advertising circulars and researches whether better prices are available anywhere else. He gets me a map of every return address. Maybe I ask him to anticipate needs I don't even know I have yet. If he does something I don't like, I replace him.

When I visit your website, and you send me a page in response, I should be able to do whatever I like to manipulate it on my end. Display it in purple, suppress images, block pop-ups, compare prices from other vendors, whatever. In the words of my colleague, Cory Doctorow, "it's my screen, and I should be able to control it; companies like Google and individuals should be able to provide tools and services to let me control it."

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Tech


COMMENTS

1. Terry Steichen on February 27, 2005 5:17 PM writes...

It makes sense that the user should be able to modify whatever he/she receives as long as the modified version is for his/her personal consumption.

Copyright law clearly prohibits a third party from taking copyrighted material, modifying it (even just framing it) and republishing it.

However, the pragmatic reality is that the user isn't usually doing this modifying completely on his/her own. There is often a very interested party involved, "helping" him/her with a tool to assist with the modifications (which usually "just happen" to be in the interests of that 3rd party).

Thus, you can look at this situation and view it as a kind of distributed aggregator, which effectively violates copyright without (arguably) doing any thing illegal.

I'm not in favor of overly strict copyright enforcement, but this situation bothers me in that it might conceivably form the basis of bypassing copyright entirely by allowing an infringer to become a distributed rather than centralized re-publisher (while reaping all the 'benefits' of infringement in a completely legal manner).

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