Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is Bing infringing on Google’s copyright?

It was recently revealed that Google monitored the differences between Google and Bing’s search results, to see whether Bing was copying Google’s results. After purposefully misspelling some key phrases, Google’s workers found that Bing was ranking the same search results for the same misspelled words.

So, is the fact that Bing is mimicking Google’s search results copyright infringement? The answer is: Probably not.

Bing apparently has a toolbar which monitors its users’ Internet activity. In doing so, it’s able to determine its own users’ preferences when they search for a misspelled key phrase. Naturally, Google’s indexing algorithm probably functions the same way, only by monitoring its own data rather than by using a toolbar since it has access to its own search data anyways.

Assuming that both companies have put some R&D time into finding the best algorithm to rank search results, albeit using different methods, it’s likely that Bing’s monitoring of users’ Google activity will end up ranking their results the same as Google itself.

However, even if Bing is simply directly copying Google’s search results and not even compiling its search results as a result of what it monitors on its toolbar, it is unlikely that it would constitute copyright infringement.

Plain lists are usually not copyrighted. The information that appears in a Google search is just the site name, URL, and meta tag information or other text pulled from the relevant page of the website. Unless Google has annotated its search results, and Bing has copied those, Bing probably has not done anything illegal.

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