Google's new penchant for webscraping

My understanding of webscraping is that it is a dodgy practice whereby one populates one's website with content simply retrieved from other sites (normally automatically, by software sometimes called "robots") instead of creating one's own. One interesting case in this regard was eBay v. Bidder's Edge, 100 F.Supp.2d 1058 (N.D. Cal. 2000) in which eBay obtained an injunction against a company that had basically copied the eBay auction content. The legal doctrine of trespass to chattels (possibly not well known in South Africa) applies. The recent Johannesburg High Court battle between News24 and Moneyweb touched on related issues.

This is actually very similar to what we do when we "share" items on Facebook but in that case, at least, it is clear why it happens and there is acknowledgement. What Google has started to do, I think, falls somewhere between these forms of sharing and scraping. 

Google searches have been returning more content and more targeted content from the top-rated search result in a special "Here's your answer!" box.

In short, Google Search tries to provide sufficient information to obviate the need for the user to actually visit the website indexed by the search engine. In the long run, this is obviously not really a model for sustaining a rich online environment but I would agree that the legal framework around intellectual property and copyright needs to adapt to the digital and online world. Google is certainly not afraid of murky water, given the rampant unlicensed redistribution happening on its YouTube platform.

It would be interesting to see how long it is before someone sues. French publishers, perhaps?