Copyright Reforms for the Digital Age: A Closer Look at Google

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CitationTerm paper presented to Computer Science 457/557 at Yale in Spring 2006
AuthorsDan Holevoet
Sarah Price


When one of the authors discovered that her brother kept a personal blog, she was immediately curious about what he had written about her. Unwilling to pour through hundreds of entries, she used Google to search the domain of his blog for various terms, such as "sister," and used the pages Google cached to find out what exactly he had said. Needless to say, her brother probably did not anticipate this availability of information to his sister. It would seem that Google's services might actually be a detriment to copyright holders. Yet, in 2006, companies that Google had banned from its returns pages, such as KinderStart, filed a suit against Google for unfairly blocking them, because hits to their website dropped 70% when Google stopped showing information about their site.1 The extent to which computers have changed everyday life is undeniable. It is now possible to obtain vast amounts of information more quickly and easily than ever before. With the conveniences brought by the digital revolution, however, complications far exceeding those of this example are inevitable. Not only does this new availability of information create novel situations that challenge former legal and social situations, but even the very nature of computing itself strains pre-existing legislation. The nature of governmental processes has meant that old legislation and concepts have been twisted to match a changing reality, and that new legislation is often reactionary and ill-advised. This paper examines the strains placed on copyright law by the dynamic environment created by new technology. We first consider the history of copyright law from its origins to the present. Next, we consider Google as an example of a business, which has formed a robust economic model, based on opportunities presented by new technology, and how its business strategy and the limitations of existing copyright legislation challenge each other. Finally, we consider what interests should prevail in this battle and how the legal and technological environment should be modified in order to attain balance.

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