back to article Google, antitrust, and the 'Copygate' hypocrisy

Google built a multi-billion-dollar advertising empire atop a service that does little more than copy information from other sources. And yet it chastises others when they do the copying. It's an irony that could land the company in some very hot water. Google made (countless) headlines last week when, after an intricate " …


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  1. Mark 176


    You say that you don't see how google is different to a site that is just referencing other material but if I were to search google for information on X and the first hit was I'd be pretty pissed. I want the actual information on X not a site that can take me to the imformation on X.

    The reality is they built a company on a service that lets you find information, not one that copies it (ignoring google books and friends which came along later). They didn't (as far as I am aware at least) go and mine the search results of the existing search engines to build their search index, and I don't see why others should be allowed to mine theirs. It's not like google has exclusive access to all the information needed to build a decent search engine.

    In general that article seems pretty anti-google, and while there may be lots of reasons to not like google I hardly think this article presents one of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I may have misread the article or - indeed - misunderstand search processes but

      Google search the web and compile/store a list of websites. They copy relevant content for display.

      Foundem/others search the web and compile/store a list of websites.They copy relevant content for display.

      When Google display results they used to show Foundem/others as high quality results. It is contended that Google stopped doing this because of 'too much copying'.

      If Foundem were using (and this is were I am ignorant!) Google to get their source information then I could see how Google might conclude they were to some extent being unfairly milked. If not, then it is fairly clear, Google were intending to favour their own services over that of a competitor and that they were anti-competitively using their dominant search supply position to restrict consumer choice.

      I'm sure other comparison companies must use similar processes to Foundem/other, and may even use Google searches, but I suspect that as they don't offer competitive services Google leave them alone.

      I'd welcome polite correction if I have misunderstood.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Anonymous Coward 10th February 2011 13:36 GMT

        Have you ever seen an advert for using Google as a search engine? I never have. They got my custom by being the best.

        I looked at the Foundem site several months ago when it was in the news and thought it was rubbish and just tried it again to find a hotel near where I live.

        It wouldn't let me enter my home city as destination, the nearest city I could enter was nearly 40km away (I am not in the UK), and of course the majority of responses were in that region.

        So I went to one of the sites it had scraped (Expedia, which I have never used before). Expedia allowed me to enter not just my nearest city but popped up suggestions for 6 outlying districts including my village.

        It looks to me like Foundem's only value is to indicate which specialized web services are worth taking a look at, and when you click through to the useful site you are re-directed via tradedoubler which I assume means Foundem gets a cut even if it couldn't recommend a product you wanted. Clearly all Foundem's content (for my search at any rate) was badly (and worse - incompletely) scraped information from other websites.

        I can't think of a better reason for Google to leave them alone - although I suspect I am using the term 'leave them alone' in a different sense than you did

        It seems to me that other similar sites like Go Compare and Compare the Meerkat and that one with the red telephone are obliged to spend a fortune on TV advertising to get their business. Why should Foundem expect a free ride from Google?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          @AC 10th February 2011 15:30 GMT

          "Have you ever seen an advert for using Google as a search engine? I never have."

          Well there's this one:

          First ran during the Super Bowl last year. I don't know if they ran it in any other country so if you're on the other side of the pond you may not have seen it.

          Thumb Down


          the best? Google search results have deteriorated enormously since the last 2 years...

          try looking for a product by article code... the brand itself isn't even mentioned on the first page...

          and all top mentioned sites are obviously fake sites that pretend to have this item in stock but then cannot find the article in their database

          of course they DID succeed in luring you to their crappy website/webshop with Google's help and their outdated logarithms...

          Google should stop bashing other people/companies and fix their own shop

    2. BillG

      Re: Huh??

      From article:

      > Raff actually defends Google's claims that Microsoft is

      > copying its search results, denying there's any hypocrisy at play.

      > "The word ‘copy’ has a lot of different meanings," he says.

      No it doesn't.

      In the context of a professional webmaster, to "copy" means "republishing without permission".

      As a professional webmaster, I give Google and other search engines permission to "copy" my content. And there are distinct ways that I can use to stop Google, or search engines I don't even know about, from copying my content (robots.txt, etc).

      Mark176 wrote:

      > The reality is they [Google] built a company on a service

      > that lets you find information, not one that copies it


  2. job514


    This article sounds like a misleading hit piece. Since when is creating an index, the same as copying? If that were the case, I guess we would say that a library's card catalog is a copy of the works it indexes. Of course, this isn't the case. Search engines create an index. When you click on the links that they show, you are redirected to the owner's site, not a copy made by the search engine that directs you. The difference in this case is that Bing is *copying*. It is copying the *index* (not content) that Google has created for specific search terms by scrapping the results that users click on while using Google search in IE.

    Consider a dictionary by Webster. It contains definitions for terms that everyone uses and knows that speaks that language. It is perfectly acceptable for Oxford dictionary to contain all the same terms. However, Webster needed expertise and considerable research in order to gather all those words. If Oxford were to just lift all the words and definitions from Webster's word index without it's own research, it would be obvious to most people that Oxford was offering nothing but a cheap knock off. What Bing is doing may be perfectly legal but it's still smells foul.

    1. Ammaross Danan

      Totally misleading...

      The Author of this article obviously doesn't have a full understanding of what is going on with the whole Google debacale. I totally agree with job514 and several other commenters.

      "that Google's Univerisal Search setup is unfairly promoting the company's own services – including Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Product Search – over those of its competitors."

      If I ran a store (say Acme Computers) and was selling MS-based PCs. Would I be required, by law or otherwise, to recommend or refer my customers to Cheap Computers down the street, merely because they came to me (the largest and most well-known retailer in the area) first? Even if their prices were lower, better quality, etc? The first result on Google shouldn't be Bing's results for what I'm looking for. The first page of Google results shouldn't be a list of scraping websites' results for what I'm looking for. It would be like having your first page of results be links to Scroogles' results for what I'm looking for... (think about that recursion algorithm for a bit!).

      "de-indexed because about 87 per cent was "copied" from elsewhere."

      This is blately evident (the remaining 13% is likely ads), and can be summed up with another sentence from the article: "other copied content can be very useful indeed. Foundem does copy a majority of its content, but it's a search engine," which takes us back to argument #1: don't index the result page of other search engines.

      A bit of a note toward Bing's theft of index results: They aren't necessarily stealing the result and indexing it in their engine. The site was already indexed. They're merely using Google's engine ranking as an additional (albeit heavy) weight to determine it's ranking on Bing. This is an underhanded way to hide the fact that one's search ranking algorithms are crap compared to the targeted competitor. So no, their not stealing results nor indexes, their stealing the index RANKING, at which point, they might as well just be another Scroogle.

  3. david 12 Silver badge

    Bing copying

    I don't understand the complaint yet. Bing learns what websites you are interested in by remembering what websites you visit? Bing learns what websites you are interested in by examining the content of the pages you display?

    I realise that I give that data to Google when I do a search, but frankly, I regard that information as my data, not Google's. Google gives me that data in return for serving adds at me and learning marketing information from me, but the search results are mine as a result of that transaction, and if I want to give the data to Bing I don't see that Google has a valid complaint.

    Google is just trying to own me. Normally I don't mind, but this is really a step too far.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You don't want to give your data to Google ? Fine!

      Just don't tell them what you want to search for, OK ? Scan the net and search for the info yourself then.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not how it works

      When you buy a book do you gain the copyright? No.

      It's the same with search. A search engine's results are a direct consequence of its proprietary algorithms. As such, when you perform a search on Google, you do not suddenly own those results.

      By following users' searches on other sites, Bing is copying those sites' search results. It's unclear whether that's legal, but it's certainly a prick move.

      1. Twinkles

        No ...

        I don't think you get it. Bing is looking at your decision, not Google's search results.

        Are you saying your decision belongs to Google?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down


          "I don't think you get it. Bing is looking at your decision, not Google's search results."

          But your decision is a choice of Google's search results.

          1. Asiren

            Letters and 123

            Bing, as far as what Google is implying, is lifting Google's results and displaying it as its own when certain terms are searched for. So it's just aggregating Google's results from Google's algorithms, and presenting them on Bing's result page. That seems to be not presenting similar content though a similar (but fundamentally different) process, which is what Bing claims to be by offering an "alternative" service, but to be giving either the same results, or filtering Google's work an presenting as "original content".

            The problem with Foundem seems valid too. Why would a user want a search engine result to return another search engine result? That's like looking for cheap flights through Expedia, and being told the Opodo has a list of cheap flights too! Taking this in extremis, we could have a loop where one search term in Google returns the Foundem search, returning the Bing search, which returns to the Foundem search which it lifted off Google! The user gets nowhere!

  4. jspaid

    Dates for Android vs. iPhone

    Android was purchased by Google in 2005 and was obviously in existence before that. The first iPhone was debuted in 2007. So I don't really see how Google copied Apple there. It was obvious that they had a long-term strategy to enter the mobile phone business, and that strategy paid off.

    I agree with Mark 176; there are lots of reasons to not like various aspects of Google, and the few that are presented here are poorly executed.

    I'd also add that anyone who understands search can tell the difference between indexing for search and copyright infringement and it appears that this article was trying to blur the line. That's not what I look for when I want editorials.

    1. Dave 142


      Except the Android Google had before the iPhone was very different to the Android post-iPhone. The early concepts all looked like the older crappy so-called smartphones and then suddenly post-iPhone it started to look like the iPhone. Google may have wanted a phone from 2005, but the final product took it's cue from the iPhone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You think Google is so inept?

      That they started development before - or in parallel with - Apple, but Apple released a highly polished result over a year in advance of Android? And even then Android looked like a half-baked rush job. The sort of thing you see when someone recognises a good thing and wants to get a piece of the action. The same process is happening with tablets now - the iPad has been out nearly a year, and Google has still got its clone in the oven.

      1. g e

        A highly polished result

        Yes, it was very shiny but lacked most things that other phones had had for a long time.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Google had someone on Apple's board of directors during the development of the iphone, during this time, they purchased Android. This is pretty shitty behavior.

  5. JaitcH

    If Google was like Apple ....

    it would have patented the idea of search and no doubt trade marked the term.

    Instead, notwithstanding all it's faults, Google has done the world a great deal of good including the donation of software to the public domain which is even being used by competitors!

  6. Paul M 1


    Huh? Not another Cade Google rant article already? I really can't be bothered to comment...

    Oh go on then! In addition to the comments already made about their "copying" Google do not claim to have originated the copied material, only the algorithms and data returned by their searches. Bing on the other hand seem to make the same claim for data generated by Google.

  7. Gordon Pryra

    Using the Contents of a Meta tag is not copying

    The Website owner has (almost) full control of what Google put up on their search (should probably say search engine rather than Google).

    This very page wants to be indexed with the following strap line.

    "Google, antitrust, and the 'Copygate' hypocrisy • The Register Forums"

    While Google, Bing and the like can make that snippet up from content within the page, its a line of text that is used to describe the contents of the page, not actually copied or stolen.

    The practise of marking down a website for duplicating content makes search engines viable. For every site that is well written with unique content, there are 5000 scrotes scamming that information and passing it off as their own.

    The preview option in Google may be classed as a copy, but I am not sure a thumb nail image can be classed as a copy.

  8. Tim Acheson

    Google is leading in immitation, not innovation

    Copying other people's ideas and attacking the original innovators has become a central theme in Google's business model:-

    1. Code Monkey

      Post a proper URL

    2. NoneSuch Silver badge


      ...same with Microsoft...

      ...and Apple...

      ...and IBM...


      Whats your point? :)

  9. Twinkles

    Dear Google

    My clickstream is mine, not yours, Google. That means I can share it with whoever I want.

    With this silly accusation about Bing, it seems you are saying that someone else can't use what I do on the web when I let them. Do you really think what I do on the interwebs, and the decisions I make on your site, belong to you?

    Rather arrogant. And a bit creepy. Is it in your fine print somewhere?

    As far as I am concerned, if I let Bing or whoever observe my decisions that's none of your business. It's not Bing copying you, it's Bing copying me when I let them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your letter needs fixing

      As far as I am concerned, if I let Bing or whoever observe my decisions that's none of your business. It's not Bing copying you, it's me sharing the results that you have gone to inconceivable lengths to produce with the appearance of effortlessness - with Bing

      FTFY (I'm so glad Google isn't the MAFIAA)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Children's Hour

        No, the "MAFIAA" members pay the talent.

        Google doesn't.

    2. Asiren

      Your decision

      Right. And how many people out there realise that using IE automatically shares your clickstream with Bing?

      And as mentioned in the other reply, it's not you doing whatever you want unaided. It's what you're doing with the aid of Google's algorithms that's being copied. You would not have clicked through to that site without Google. Bing would not know that site was a "search result" without your click-through. Thus Bing is using Google's result to improve it's own results.

      That's copying Google's results, and thus bad.

      1. David Ward 1


        "Right. And how many people out there realise that using IE automatically shares your clickstream with Bing?"

        IE doesn't share anything "automatically" or not, the 'bing bar' shares user content with Microsoft to enhance bing (and only if opt IN) which allows modification of the algorithm to enhance the relationship between what you are looking for and how efficiently you get there.

  10. henry22

    Is Google and Not Microsoft's Bing The Copycat ?

    According to Henry Aladiume CEO of ,the charge that Microsoft copied Google's search result is unfounded because Bing's algorithym is different from that of Google and would naturally produce different results.

    The charge of copying from Google opens up the opportunity to examine some of Google's practices that suggests that the search giant may be guilty of what it is accussing Microsoft of. According to the editorial team at there is evidence to suggest that Google copied the iPhone.This because one of the reasons Erick Schmidt left the Apple board was over tensions that Google was going to enter the smartphone business.Also when Google launched the Nexus 1 phone in 2010 Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that they did not go into search but Google entered into phone business in order to kill the Apple iPhone.Google claimed they bought Android in 2005 so why they did wait until 2008 a year after the iPhone was launched to launch the G1-phone ?Also according to Steve Jobs he said that in the early days the prototype of the Google's Android Phones he saw looked more like Black Berries .

    Now there is the lawsuit filled by Oracle over Google use of the Javacode on which Android was developed from.Some analysts suggest Google copied the code.

    Finally ,the charge that Microsoft copied Google's search result is unfounded because Bing's algorithym is different from that of Google and would naturally produce different results.

    1. david wilson


      >>"According to the editorial team at there is evidence to suggest that Google copied the iPhone.This because one of the reasons Erick Schmidt left the Apple board was over tensions that Google was going to enter the smartphone business."

      You don't think that leaving the board would be a likely consequence of deciding to enter the phone business whether or not there was any meaningful 'copying' going on?

      >>"Also when Google launched the Nexus 1 phone in 2010 Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested that they did not go into search but Google entered into phone business in order to kill the Apple iPhone."

      So their aim is to 'kill' Apple, rather than to make money selling phones?

      Did Apple enter the MP3 player market in order to 'kill' other companies, or in order to sell a product?

      A lot of what is done with products depends on the available technology.

      For example, if touchscreens get better feaured or better value, (possibly partly as a result of one company making a device which uses them well), simply having better touchscreens around would tend to influence future designs even if the designers had been kept locked up and in total ignorance of any devices using them.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Because your searching for information

    Why would anyone want Google to index other search engines? If 'Foundem' is simply another search engine albeit a specialised one (ie x% is copied from elsewhere) it is entirely logical to remove them from the results, for the simple and understandable reason that as a user I want to find the actual information, not another page of indirection.

    Imagine the case when Google indexed Bing, which indexed Yahoo, which Indexed Ask which indexed Google. You'd be going around and around the search results not finding anything apart from a link to yet another site. It would be a absolute mess.

    This isn't about copying information, far from it, its about providing an optimised search for the user, which at the end of the day made Google's name.

    1. Tom 13

      Actually, before Google became the 80,000 ton gorilla of search engines

      one of the favorites was Dogpile, which did exactly that. For all I know they are still around. Now what was different between Dogpile and Bing, is that Dogpile explicitly claimed they were indexing indexes, and their top results took you to say the Yahoo search for "IT nitwits" or Bing search for "IT nitwits."

      So it's not the meta-indexing that is at issue for me, it's the indexing of someone else's work and passing it off as your own that is problematic. For the consumer the problem is this: What if Bing becomes the number 1 search engine because of MS's monopoly power, but its search results are all pilfered from Google, and that as a result of the pilfering Google goes bankrupt?

  12. copsewood

    copying is what computers and networks do

    Most of what happens inside a computer system is data being copied from one place (e.g. larger slower memory) to another (e.g. smaller faster memory) so that very many relatively trivial operations (e.g. shift left or right by one bit, compare 2 numbers and ignore next instruction if they are the same, add 2 numbers together etc.) can occur.

    The purpose of a network is to create exact copies of many packets of information from the sender to the receiver. We can say the same for most of what most consumer electronic items do, these copy information from one format to another and exist for little else.

    So, we have an interesting collision between old media which gets the copyright monopoly over what its expensive lawyers and lobbyists claim is its 'original' content (because politicians don't like fights with those who buy ink by the barrel load) and the Internet and electronics industries (probably 10 times the size) which exist for incompatible purposes. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

  13. Robert Carnegie Silver badge


    Microsoft Internet Explorer does little more than copy information from other sources, n'est-ce pas?

  14. david wilson

    Search engines?

    Is there any Google (or other search engine) option for actively excluding *any* search engine/price comparison site from results?

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Sliding scale

      Web sites come in many styles, from price only, to price comparison and review, to quite serious reviews that happen to have a small price comparison panel attached, to only showing the 'recommended retail price" or "list price". So where to draw the line is difficult.

      You can minus terms that you don't want to see in results, although this isn't absolute, for instance:

      LG Chocolate -Amazon -CNET -"best buys"

      Readers in the United Kingdom can also consider excluding "VAT" (sales tax, roughly). Or indeed "tax".

      Fine until you're searching for reviews of wedding reception sized cheese fondue vats, or the staple gun alternative to see you through the downfall of modern civilisation and beyond, the "Mad-Tax" automated thumbtack applicator. (Of course, you'd better buy all the tacks you're ever going to need before civilisation collapses, it's unlikely they'll be making more of those. At least not ready-loaded in the handy hot-swappable cartridges.)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Google's claim is overwrought

    I think Google's claim about Bing is bogus. They generated 100 "synthetic" searches and mock results - fed them into Bing's algorithm using IE suggested sites and the Bing toolbar and moan when 6 of them come back the same as their own mock results. It seems to me that if you feed an algorithm (which Bing claims uses many different data stream as inputs) with strong data for one "stream" where no data exists on any other incoming stream (since they were deliberately "mock" searches which did not exist "in the wild") then a discard rate of 94/100 is pretty good. If it were truly copying, wouldn't ALL the 100 come back the same, since Google is the only source of the data? How is this any different to what SEO manipulation does to Google's results?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Anonymous Coward 10th February 2011 15:30 GMT

      And since when has anyone (apart from Webmasters with poor quality content and Search Engine Optimisers themselves) considered SEO to be a good thing?

      OK "Miserable Failure" used to be good for a laugh but apart from that?

      1. alan17


        I wasn't suggesting SEO was a good thing, but you can always game an algorithm. Google is constantly fighting to avoid others gaming its own "black box" whilst currently trying to demonstrate that it can game Bing in a small number of very special cases. Indeed it is using Bing's tools, in combination with a spiking of its own results, to do so - in effect doing SEO on its own "synthetic" results in Bing. Bing seems quite robust to such gaming (as I imagine is Google), since only a small percentage of such efforts were effective. It is of interest that Google had to install the Bing toolbar and agree to send clickstream data to Bing in order to do this - this is hardly the same as Bing trawling Google's index to "copy" the results. It is not like Bing is robo-searching and mimicking the returns from Google - it is optimising its own search based upon user data - some of this data comes from clicks originating at Google. I bet much more comes form other sites, including Bing itself.

  16. Parsifal

    Too many Fanbois Here

    Judging by the number of down-votes on perfectly reasonable posts I'd say Google is attracting the same sort of Sycophantic zealots that Apple has. Down-voting posts because you don't like what they say is wrong, if you disagree with someones point of view , post a reply or just do nothing.

    I usually down vote offensive or just plain stupid posts, which is the way I feel that down-voting should be used, although I must admit some of the irrationality in the comments has caused me to sink to their level and down-vote a couple of the more xenophobic posts,

    Down-vote away.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "The company has also been known to "copy" Bing's iconic background images"

    Everyclick was doing doing that before Bing even existed, Shirley?

    1. Grease Monkey Silver badge


      Why downvote that post?

      Are you a Bing fanboi who can't deal with the fact that everyclick did something before Microsoft?

      Or do you disagree that everyclick did it first?

      Either way don't just downvote. Actually post a response.

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