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Q: Google Toolbar Autolink feature ( Answered 1 out of 5 stars,   5 Comments )
Subject: Google Toolbar Autolink feature
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: communitynews-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 01 Mar 2005 06:50 PST
Expires: 31 Mar 2005 06:50 PST
Question ID: 482860
Google recently announced a feature in the toolbar that creates links
in webpages when viewed and currently only if a user clicks a button.
What are the legal arguments both pro and con regarding this feature
and possible enhancements to it.
Subject: Re: Google Toolbar Autolink feature
Answered By: easterangel-ga on 03 Mar 2005 21:29 PST
Rated:1 out of 5 stars
Hi! Thanks for the question.

Before providing a rating, please ask for clarification if you will
need further assistance in the answers I have provided below.

Please take note of the important disclaimer below that this answer is
for general information only and is not a substitute for informed
professional legal advice.

Due to the disclaimer above, I will point out here the various legal
questions and additional issues about Google?s Autolink. These
viewpoints can be found from different articles, blogs, etc. I will
post here the interesting viewpoints and short snippets but I highly
recommend that you read the articles in their entirety to get a better
grasp of the concepts.

Here are some of the legal arguments (both pros and cons) about
Google?s Autolink feature.



a.) ??some critics charge that AutoLink modifies web pages to direct
people the way Google sees fit, much as Microsoft attempted to with
its Smart Tags feature years ago??

b.) ??Terence Ross, an attorney at Gibson Dunn, said: ?I see it as an
issue of 'Who owns the content being displayed?' Google does not own
the content, and when it uses the content of others to make money, it
often will be violating the intellectual property laws.??

?Google AutoLink toolbar feature, not AutoMatically popular? 

c.) ?AutoLink is pressed; the viewer will not be able to tell which
links are put there by the page's author and which are put there by

d.) ?Even worse, there's no way for site authors to opt out! At least
Microsoft indicated that it would respect an opt-out META tag that
site creators could insert into their web pages.?

?Google AutoLink: enemy of the people?? 

e.) ?If Google inserts links into your web page, you lose a degree of
control over the user's experience. Most AutoLinks will be to pages
that you wouldn't have otherwise linked to. The AutoLinks might help
the user, but still detract from their impression of your site and
your ability to meet your site goals.?

?Is Google opting out of "Don't Be Evil" clause?? 


a.) ?While Google pooh-poohed any comparison of its controversial
AutoLink feature to Microsoft's SmartTag technology... cover the same
territory as Microsoft's 2000 patent application for Providing
electronic commerce actions based on semantically labeled strings,
whose sole inventor - Jeff Reynar - was the lead SmartTag Program
Manager while at MS and is reportedly now a Google Product Manager?

?Is Google AutoLink Patent-Pending By Microsoft?? 


a.) ?Google's cookie doesn't expire until 2038; add onto that the data
that the Google toolbar can gather about users, and you have a data
mining tool second to none.?

?Google AutoLink: enemy of the people??


a.) ?Why did search marketers care so much? They were footing the
bill. Ads they placed with people like LookSmart got inserted into
pages that they never actively chose. Many disliked this and made
threads to their ad providers like LookSmart to stop partnering or
lose them as customers.?

b.) ?Back to Google AutoLink, a remaining major concern for publishers
is simply that they might not want Google sending anyone anywhere out
of their sites via links that they didn't provide in the first place.
There's a potential traffic loss people worry about??

c.) ??AutoLinks could cost publishers money. If you have a page about
a book, you might not want Google sending someone to Amazon to
purchase it, especially without your own affiliate code.?

?Google Toolbar's AutoLink & The Need For Opt-Out? 



a.) ?Is Google using its huge market share to edit people's Web pages
without consent? Not according to U.S. copyright law. Once you
download digital content?a Web page?onto your computer, it's yours to
mess with as you please as long as you don't redistribute it. As Boing
Boing's Cory Doctorow explains, AutoLink is like a remix tool: It
won't replace an existing link with one of its own, but it does insert
new links that the page's author might have overlooked.?

?When Good Search Engines Go Bad? 

The specific Copyright Fair Use provisions (FL-102) can be viewed at
the following links.


b.) ?Further, current links are not overwritten; only unlinked text is affected.?

?Google AutoLink: enemy of the people?? 


a.) ?But this isn't a Smart Tags redux. Microsoft wasn't going to give
users a choice. The plan was to bundle Smart Tags in with the
company's Internet browser. While Microsoft would have decided which
links automatically appeared on screen, nothing happens if you don't
click on the AutoLink link.?

b.) ?Nobody's forcing users to download the toolbar and use AutoLink.?

?Clicks by deception? Not quite?

c.) ?The AutoLink feature provides alternatives by allowing you to
choose from three different mapping providers: Google, Yahoo or

d.) The Autolink feature can also be disabled.

?Google Toolbar Autolink Controversy: Much Ado about Nothing??


a.) ??that the person involved with Microsoft's Smart Tag program has
done the same for Google are incorrect. Jeff Reynar does now works for
Google, but the company says he was never involved with the AutoLink

?Microsoft Smart Tag Engineer Not Involved With AutoLink? 


a.) ?AutoLink strikes me as an important baby step toward greater
automation online, potentially saving time by simplifying research
tasks that are becoming routine. Mayer confirmed that more auto-links
are in the works, probably using other numbers you can already type
into Google's query box to get special results. Those include
telephone area codes, which link to maps of covered regions, and UPC
or bar codes, which retrieve links to product descriptions.?

b.) ?To make clearer how it works, Google is studying possible changes
to how new links are presented and to the menu where they are

?Google AutoLink Pits Convenience, Ownership Issues? 

Search terms used:
Google Autolink legal issues Microsoft patent copyright

I hope these links would help you in your research. Before rating this
answer, please ask for a clarification if you have a question or if
you would need further information.
Thanks for visiting us.                
Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by communitynews-ga on 04 Mar 2005 07:02 PST
The question asks for "legal arguments", not the opinion of bloggers,
pundits, popular press and possibly the opinion of Google's PR
department that were provided in the answer. The answer fails to
mention even a single legal precedent, court case or lawsuit. For
these reasons, the current answer doesn't reasonably address the
question asked.

The BetaMax case as well as unauthorized framing and linking have all
been tested in the courts to some degree. Even if settled before a
ruling was made these cases and probably others shed some light on how
this is likely to go as it begins it's long journey in the US legal
system. How international law is likely to impact this case is also of

I am far less interested in the patent issues over the copyright issues.

Specific clarification needed is:

Copyrights include the right to reproduce or to authorize others to
reproduce the work and the right to control the creation of derivative
works subject to certain limitations. What are the limitations and
what arguments have been made in prior similar cases, pro and con,
regarding the interpretation of the limitations?  Please cite specific
cases with an emphasis on the "derivative work" aspect of the Autolink

Clarification of Answer by easterangel-ga on 04 Mar 2005 16:26 PST

Since the Autolink feature is fairly new, we have to rely on past and
seemingly related cases as to the as pect of derivative works.

In this first article, the author cites the legal definitions of derivative works.

"To be a derivative work then, the work must first be original;
second, the work must "fixed in a tangible medium of expression;" and,
third, the transformation or adaptation must be lawfully made.(7) No
"bright line" rule exists as to how much originality, "spark" of
creativity, or independent creation is required, but it must be enough
to distinguish the finished derivative work from the pre-existing
material used in the derivative work.(8) Fixation, of course, may even
be so transient to include storage in a computer's random-access
memory or on its hard disk drive.(9) To fulfill the "lawfully made"
requirement, permission must be given by the copyright owner of the
material used as the source of the derivative work. In other words,
one who has derived a new work from a copyrighted work without
permission of the copyright owner would have infringed the owner's

"The key element, however, is transformation. The resulting work must
be different from the original. It must be adapted or altered in some
way. It may be enlarged or reduced but it must be changed. It must
appear in a manner other than the author of the original work intended
that work to appear."

"Framing as an Unauthorized Derivative Work: Re-conceptualizing
Traditional Approaches to Defining Copyright Infringement"

Futuredontics, Inc. v. Applied Anagramics, Inc. is a good example of a
lwsuit based on a website derivative work.

"Defendants contend that AAI's window or frame provides a "lens" which
enables Internet users to view the information that Plaintiff itself
placed on the Internet. Plaintiff's complaint, however, alleges that
defendants reproduce its copyrighted web page by combining AAI
material and Plaintiff's web site."

"Futuredontics, Inc. v. Applied Anagramics (C.D. Cal. 1998)"

Another case that can be cited is Kelly v. Arriba Soft.

"The most significant factor favoring Defendant is the transformative
nature of its use of Plaintiff's images. Defendant's use is very
different from the use for which the images were originally created.
Plaintiff's photographs are artistic works used for illustrative
purposes. Defendant's visual search engine is designed to catalog and
improve access to images on the Internet."

" To a lesser extent, the Arriba Vista image attributes page also
served this purpose by allowing users to obtain more details about an
image. The image attributes page, however, raises other concerns. It
allowed users to view (and potentially download) full-size images
without necessarily viewing the rest of the originating Web page. At
the same time, it was less clearly connected to the search engine's
purpose of finding and organizing Internet content for users."

Kelly v. Arriba Soft

Finally the case of Washington Posts v. TotalNews also talks about the
world of unauthorized derivative works.

"Defendants' site not only relies entirely on the substantive content
of Plaintiffs' sites to attract users, but also keeps those users
exposed to advertising that Defendants have sold and to Defendants'
logo and URL. Absent the "framing" by Defendants described above,
someone wishing to view the content of Plaintiff's sites would, upon
accessing those sites, see only Plaintiffs' material as Plaintiffs
intend for it to be seen."

"Defendants also distort, and divert from, the content on Plaintiffs'
sites that otherwise would be the only substantive material appearing
on a user's screen. Among other things, by juxtaposing advertising
sold by Defendants against advertising sold by Plaintiffs on their own
sites, and by obscuring the advertising on Plaintiffs' sites,
Defendants directly compete against Plaintiffs and interfere with
Plaintiffs' contractual relationships with their advertisers. "

"By usurping the content of Plaintiffs' websites and causing each of
Plaintiffs' websites to appear within a window on Defendants' site,
Defendants unfairly have misappropriated valuable commercial property
belonging to the Plaintiffs."

"Washington Post v. TotalNews"

I hope this would be of help.

communitynews-ga rated this answer:1 out of 5 stars
Not worth what I paid.

Subject: Re: Google Toolbar Autolink feature
From: answermonster-ga on 05 Mar 2005 12:05 PST
For $200 that looked like a pretty good answer in my opinion.  If you
want "legal arguments", hire an IP lawyer-- he'll charge you $300 per
hour to write a 10 page legal memorandum that'll take at least 15
hours to write.
Subject: Re: Google Toolbar Autolink feature
From: communitynews-ga on 05 Mar 2005 13:33 PST
The fact that the initial question wasn't even addressed in the
initial answer and then only one of the three specific cases suggested
in my request for clarification was addressed is the reason for my
Subject: Re: Google Toolbar Autolink feature
From: garyking-ga on 06 Mar 2005 07:47 PST
Why didn't you just ask for clarification?
Subject: Re: Google Toolbar Autolink feature
From: eliteskillsdotcom-ga on 06 Mar 2005 20:43 PST
"What are the legal arguments both pro and con regarding this feature
and possible enhancements to it."

Then he gave you a list of legal arguments pros and cons.

He answered your question.

Then you asked for clarification saying it didn't even include a court
case etc etc.

You didn't ask for a comprehensive analysis researching past high
profile court cases, and conclusive evidence from the highest quality

You asked for legal arguments and that's what he gave

"The fact that the initial question wasn't even addressed in the
initial answer."

That's just standard curtosy to re-emphasize the disclaimer well researched topic.

If you had been more clear with your question, the time the research
spent would have been better allocated to the answer you were seaking.
So, don't blame the researcher.
Subject: Re: Google Toolbar Autolink feature
From: communitynews-ga on 07 Mar 2005 18:51 PST
I stand by my rating and statement that the answer wasn't worth the
money I paid. The question clearly asked for "legal arguments" and
opinions by bloggers, the popular press were given. The request for
clarification mentioned "The BetaMax case as well as unauthorized
framing and linking" as examples of what was needed and only framing
was discussed in the follow up answer.

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