( @randyblue )
The recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that Google Search’s autocomplete will not work in all languages will be viewed as a victory for copyright law. In that ruling, the judges recognized that the decision would be viewed as an expansion of search technology into copyright in the first place, but they also gave reasons for the ruling in particular.
Here are the key points. First, the decision affirms that the U.S. does actually have some copyright interest in autocomplete. The U.S. Copyright Office notes that copyright holders could theoretically require search engines like Google to be able to use autocomplete in multiple languages, but “that view of copyright theory may be inconsistent with U.S. federal copyright law.”
“Our conclusion on this point,” the judges said, “is that the district court did not abuse its discretion by applying a copyright doctrine more tailored to the facts of this case than is available under the Copyright Act as written or as construed in this case.”
Second, the judges found that the decision “was not directed solely to the fact that a vast number of countries do not permit the use of autocomplete, but to the fact that the district court itself held that users of Google Search “do not have a legitimate interest in making those predictions available to third parties who may use that data for a wide array of purposes.”
That would mean that the judges were actually saying that the courts would say that autocomplete should be considered copyrighted. But as I see it, that’s far from the real message of this decision. And that’s because Google doesn’t have much reason to think it’s going to be very popular in other countries. The real message is that the U.S. isn’t going to enforce its copyright at all in the world where it does exist, let alone on language.
And even more telling is when you read the dissenting opinion from Judge Posner in the case. The judges wrote:
Despite all of the courts’ assurances since the ruling in this case, Google is still not, and cannot be, treated as a copyright holder abroad. Google Search is not protected by the exclusive right to display the first 10 words; the mere fact that users in a given country might be offended by the results of “gossip” search queries does not mean that they can force Google’s hand. The fact that Google is not a copyright holder in
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