A federal judge in Nevada has cleared Google of charges that its caching feature violates US copyright laws.
The case was filed by author and attorney Blake Field who argued that the search giant had illegally made copies of his website, which holds copyrighted materials, and stored them in its cache.
Creating temporary copies of web pages allows Google to search and index the contents of the internet more efficiently. The engine provides users with access to this copied information through a 'cached' link in the search results.
However, the judge ruled that a web user clicking on a 'cached' link is actually responsible for making the copy of the website.
"Without the user's request the copy would not be created and sent to the user, and the alleged infringement at issue in this case would not occur," Judge Robert Jones ruled.
"The automated, non-volitional conduct by Google in response to a user's request does not constitute direct infringement under the Copyright Act."
Judge Jones went on to note that the use of a cache is generally accepted within the online search sector, and that website operators can opt out from being indexed by using special tags in their web pages or by offering a 'robots.txt' file.
Field had made such a file available on his website, and was aware of the opt-out facility. This provided an implied license to the search engine, according to the ruling.
Judge Jones also ruled that Google's copy of Field's works qualified as " fair use". The cache ensures access to the information in case of outages, and serves as a potentially useful archive that allows users to detect changes on a website.
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