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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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« IEEE Approves Single 802.11n Proposal | Main | How AFP Can Win Its Suit »

March 19, 2005

AFP Sues Google Rather Than Write Robots.Txt File

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Pepe1.jpgAgence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million, apparently, because Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file. (The image of the faux-French cartoon character, Pepe LePew, is linked from a German site.)

The Agence suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges Google News "stole" its content by linkig to it, with headlines and inserting thumbnails of photos. No claim is made that Google cached whole copies of the news agency's stories.

A U.S. court ruled in 2000 that it's perfectly legal to link deep into another site. But it is also legal to write a program that prevents robots from linking to any page.

On the next page is the code Agence France-Presse could easily insert into a file, robots.txt, linked to its home page, preventing all links from its site:

# go away
User-agent: *
Disallow: /

If Agence France-Presse has this code on its main page and Google's robot somehow ignored it, there might be a case. (It they want to pay me, I can send them a link from the page where I got this.)

My guess is they don't. But cut-and-paste this code into a robots.txt file on your home page, Messieur, and your problems will be over.

We have no intention here of dignifying the matter further, say with a link even to the home page of Agence France-Presse.

You can't demand payment for your own negligence.

UPDATE: I checked the two Agence France-Presse sites, and No robots.txt file on either one.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | Journalism | law


1. Mikkel deMib Svendsen on March 20, 2005 07:56 PM writes...

Newsbooster lost a similar case in Europe some years ago. Robots.txt did not have any impact on the case - either the engine are allowed to grab the content and use it or not. You do not have to say no to other peoples abuse of your copyrighted material just like you don't have to wear a sign telling people on the street not to beat you up. That is just not how the law works.

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