Google responds to accusations of ‘stealing’ content from publisher

Google responds to accusations of 'stealing' content from publisher

One publisher took to Twitter to share their reaction to what they felt was essentially the theft of their content for the benefit of Google with what they felt was little or no benefit to the publisher.

Google’s response was surprising and probably not what publishers and SEOs expected.

The publisher showed a screenshot of a branded site – search for things to do in Denver with content directly from their site.

The editorial he tweeted:

“Google is now stealing Travel Lemming’s own brand searches (even through site search).

They take our list, INCLUDING MY ORIGINAL PHOTOS 📸, and present it with a rich result so people don’t click.

I am literally in the picture of Red Rocks!…”

This wasn’t just happening in brand and site searches: either.

Google was competing with the publisher with the publisher’s content for common keyword searches such as Mexico travel tips.

The publisher tweeted a screenshot of the SERPs with a huge search function that uses all of the publisher’s content.

he he tweeted:

“They’re doing it across all travel searches, unbranded and branded.

Example: “Mexico Travel Tips” – They have an AI response and also a rich result that basically just recreates an entire blog post, including our stolen photos.

I’m in Mexico’s packaging photo again!”

Here’s the tweet:

They are doing this in all travel searches, both unbranded and branded.

Example: “Mexico Travel Tips” – They have an AI response and also a rich result that basically just recreates an entire blog post, including our stolen photos.

Once again, I’m in the Mexico packaging photo!

— Nate Hake (@natejhake) December 20, 2023

They continued with this, this And this tweet:

“How is it legal for Google to basically create entire blog posts from creators’ content and images?

I literally have a law degree from the best law school in the world, and even I can’t figure it out!

Fair use does NOT apply if you are using the content to compete directly against the creator, which is obvious.
I can’t sit outside a movie theater, project the movie on a wall, make money off of it, and claim fair use.

I spent a lot of time taking these photos in Denver.

It was more than 10 full days of work for me and my partner Clara, going around the city to photograph everything. $100 spent on attraction admission fees, gas and parking.

Now Google has just extracted all that value?

How much can Google take before creators say “enough is enough”?

How hard must the water boil before the frog jumps?

Feedback shows it’s a prisoner’s dilemma as long as Google has a monopoly on search…

Google responds

Google’s SearchLiaison (aka Danny Sullivan) responded with an explanation of what’s going on. They explained how the rich result that uses all of the publisher’s content also includes a link to the publisher’s webpage.

SearchLiaison wisely didn’t insist that Google was right. Instead, his response was sympathetic to the publisher’s plight.

SearchLiaison probably understood how the editor felt because, unlike many Googlers, Danny Sullivan used to be an editor for many decades. He, probably more than any other Googler, knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the Google fence.

link search he tweeted:

“Hi Nate, this caught my attention. I’ll pass the feedback on to the team. I’m sure this isn’t a new feature. Elsewhere in the thread, you talk about it being an AI response, and I’m pretty sure neither is it a way to refine an initial query and search for more results.

With the example you point out, when you expand the listing, your image is there with a credit. Clicking will bring up a preview with a larger view and this will allow people to visit the site. Personally, I’m not a fan of the click preview.

I think I should click directly to the site (an opinion I’ve shared internally before and will do so again). But it’s used the way Google Images works, where there’s a larger preview that helps people decide if an image is relevant to their search query. Your site also appears there. Click on that, people will come to your site.”

If you don’t want your images to appear on Google Search, here’s how to block them:

I suspect you prefer an option so they don’t appear as thumbnails in particular functions. We don’t have that kind of granular control, but I’ll pass the comments along as well.”

SearchLiaison followed with another Tweeted response:

“I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. I do. The overall intent is to improve search, which includes making sure people actually stay on the open web, because we know that in order to thrive, the open web has to thrive.

But I can also appreciate that this might not seem obvious from how some of the features are displayed.

I will share these concerns with the search team, because they are important.

You and other creators who are producing good content (and when you rank among the top performers, we say it’s good content) should feel supported.

We need to look at how what we say and how our features work ensures you feel that way.

I will include your response as part of this.”

Are Google’s rich results unfair?

There is a legal definition of what is fair, and Google may have the legal right to use website content in a way that gives the impression that Google is “stealing” a publisher’s content to outrank that publisher with its own content.

But there is also a subjective definition of fair play common sense that you feel in your heart. Perhaps it’s this sense of fairness that many publishers feel when Google seems to be using their content in a way that seems to benefit Google more than the publisher.

Is this one of those situations that fits the paradigm of just because you can doesn’t mean you should?


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About the Author: Ted Simmons

I follow and report the current news trends on Google news.

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