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Job Jacking II

(October 6, 2006)
Recently, Google lost a lawsuit. The setting, Belgium. The issue, who has which rights under Belgian copyright law.

Reuters reports the big news of the day that Google has been ordered by a Belgian court to remove all articles, photographs and graphics from French-speaking newspapers. Copiepresse issued the complaint and won the court ruling on September 5th. Not only does this require Google to remove content from Google News, the court order requires removing the content from the Google cache. ChillingEffects.org has a link to the full court order. (SearchEngineWatch)

Here's a thorough rundown of the case from the "pro" search engine perspective from Danny Sullivan. Essentially, Danny (a professional cheerleader and advocate for the search engine industry) makes the case that search engines do vastly more good than harm and should therefore be exempt from the copyright enforcement. He goes on to suggest that, since everyone does it (including Yahoo and Microsoft) and that the law is unenforceable, copyright lawsuits are nuisances.

Google has partially complied with the various court orders. They were supposed to:

  1. Remove French and German-language content from the publishers from Google Belgium's web sites or pay a fine of 1 million per day
  2. Publish the ruling on Google Belgium and Google News Belgium or pay a fine of 500,000 per day

They gave a winking compliance to #1 and have so far ignored number two. Their case is, essentially, that any website can opt out of Google's process by posting a robots.txt file. Therefore, they have permission to index the material.

To us, it looks like the requirement to post the court order (which Google refuses to do) is just like the requirement to post a robots.txt file. We don't see why Google would refuse to do what they claim is so easy for others.

Does this matter at all to Recruiters?

The question of the meaning of copyright law is very far from settled. Typically, the courts around the world (except, perhaps, China) have tended to rule deeply and conservatively in the favor of the individual copyright holder. Our sympathies lie in that direction (we get pretty significant benefit from the various search engines, however and don't want to bite the foot that stomps our grapes).

The extremes in this arena range from music copyrights to the essence of our industry, the job as it is described on a company website, on a job board or in Craig's List.

A job ad is a small and pathetic thing. Usually, it is not well written or well targeted. The prevailing theory, evidenced by massive amounts of recruiter behavior, is that a job posted in the widest array of places is the best job posting. If you are looking for examples of discriminating skills, don't look at the mass of job postings. The material is thoughtlessly assembled and more thoughtlessly distributed.

We imagine, however, that a new array of job ads is coming. Featuring matching technologies and quality control processes, these second generation tools will only work within constrained environments. Their development will be an investment in cost reduction. Their owners will care about the future of the material. They won't want the stuff to be mass distributed by thoughtless companies who do things simply because they can.

The notion that a job aggregator can simply come to your site uninvited and distribute your content without permission (remember yesterday's drive by gang lawnmowers?) is a symptom of companies who are so arrogant that they don't need to ask permission. Ultimately, the market is not very friendly to firms with bad manners.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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