Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Grazing housing sites under conditions; what about Google

An interesting test case for copyright and database right has come to Dutch court. The largest Dutch housing site Funda requested a temporary injunction of a new housing site

Funda, a site set up by the association of real estate agents, had to fight yet another provider who grazed the Funda site with robots and copied material without permission. In an earlier case Funda lost, but with Funda was more successful.

The housing sites have been at each others’ throat for some years now. Funda has a site, to which 40.000 real estate agents deliver their housing offers. Other sites say that there are more offers in the market and start a competition, which site has the most;see the example of the site, claiming 18 pct more offers. By claiming that the public has a right to search all offers on the market, they copy Funda’s offers completely or partially with the complete text and photograph, and collect other offers. Whenever they get a court case, they always claim that Funda is a monopolist. But the court threw this monopoly claim out as there are more sites active on the housing market.

Funda and a supporting organisation of real estate agents have faithfully fought all new competitors, arguing amongst others illegal copying and deeplinking. With the case versus copyright and database right was on the roll again.

The real estate agents, whose association has a 78 per cent majority share in Funda, pay for putting up their housing advertisements. copied these, using a spider grazing the Funda site, but without permission of the respective real estate agent. The court stipulated that would have to ask permission from every single real estate agent. But the court went further this time and limited the number of symbols to be copied to 155 as well as the format of the images to maximally 194x145 pixels.

The court did not make clear whether infringed copyright in a limited sense, i.c. originality. But it made clear that it concerns here the protection of other documents, which is part of the national Database law, based on the former European database directive.
The case against was to get a temporary injunction. The judge ordered to redress the database in 48 hours. Besides the judge advised to keep some money ready in case they would loose the bottom procedure.

Google News
The case is interesting as the judge put three conditions to grazing sites: permission of the original owner of the information, not just the aggregators; a limitation to copying of 155 symbols of text; a limitation to an image of 194x145 pixels. Immediately the association with the case of Google News in Europe comes up. Google News grazes sites, copies a limited number of symbols text and produces small pictures. Will this judgement offer Google News a road to continuing its services in the European countries? Presently Google News copies a limited number of symbols text and produces a thumbnail. But so far Google News does not (actively) ask permission from the newspaper owners, who could of course ask money in return.

Blog Posting Number: 839

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