The most successful Internet companies have grown rich by exploiting other people’s content — without paying for it.
AOL prospered as its members filled chat rooms. EBay thrives by selling other people’s stuff. Teens create the pages on News Corp.’s MySpace. Yahoo! and Google index all this content, and much more.
The creators of content have not fared nearly as well as the Internet has grown. Think about the music industry, or big-city newspapers or even Penthouse magazine, which went bankrupt in part because so much “adult” content can be found for free online.
An unfolding legal battle between Perfect 10, an “adult” magazine, and Google is all about who gets to profit from content on the Web. […]
[…] Some lawyers argue that merely posting material online gives search engines like Google an “implied license” to use it. Schwimmer, the independent legal expert, asks: “If you put up content on your Web site, and you don’t password protect it, what do you expect is going to happen?”
It’s hard to know what to think about all this. As an Internet user, I love Google. I’ve done dozens of Google searches to research this story. I’m a fan of Gmail and Google Earth, and I’m even a small advertiser on Google — I’ve bought keywords (like my name) to attract traffic to my own Web site.
But I make a living by writing, and it’s plain to see what the Internet is doing to print media. Google News is a computer program. Real news gathering requires reporters and editors. The guys behind the Perfect 10 lawsuit may be doing the other media companies a favor.