Google Addresses Allegations Regarding Content Appropriation

2 min read

A publisher who saw little to no benefit to themselves from what they perceived to be Google effectively stealing their content reacted to this development on Twitter.

Publishers and SEOs probably needed to prepare for Google’s unexpected response.

The publisher displayed a screen grab of a branded webpage where users could look up activities in Denver using content straight from their website.


The publisher posted on Twitter


“Google is now appropriating Travel Lemming’s brand searches, even through site search. They extract our content—INCLUDING MY ORIGINAL PHOTOS 📸—and showcase it in a rich result, discouraging clicks. I’m literally IN that Red Rocks photo!”

And it wasn’t limited to branded or site-specific searches. Google rivaled the publisher by using the publisher’s content in regular keyword searches like ‘Mexico Travel Tips.’

The publisher shared a screenshot of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) featuring a substantial search feature utilizing all of the publisher’s content. They commented:

“They’re doing this across all travel searches—branded and unbranded. For instance, for ‘Mexico Travel Tips,’ Google presents an AI answer and a rich result replicating an entire blog post, including the photos they’ve taken. Once again, I am IN that Mexico packing photo!”


They followed up with these tweets


Tweet 1:

“Isn’t it baffling that Google can generate entire blog posts using creators’ content and images? This legal puzzle evades me even with a law degree from a top-tier law school! Fair use doesn’t apply when the content is used to compete against the creator directly—their play here.”

Tweet 2:

“Consider this: I can’t set up outside a movie theater, project the movie on a wall, profit from it, and claim it’s fair use. Those Denver photos? They took extensive effort—over ten days with my partner Clara, navigating the city, capturing it all. Hundreds were spent on admission fees, gas, and parking. And now Google reaps all that value?”

Tweet 3:

“How much of our work does Google get to appropriate before creators cry ‘enough’? When does the tipping point arrive? Given Google’s search monopoly, it feels like a prisoner’s dilemma, as evident from the comments…”


Google’s Response


Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, explained the situation. They clarified that the rich result, which incorporates the entirety of the publisher’s content, includes a link back to the publisher’s webpage.

Rather than staunchly defending Google’s actions, Search Liaison opted for a more understanding stance toward the publisher’s predicament.

Search Liaison likely empathized with the publisher’s sentiments due to Danny Sullivan’s extensive background. Unlike many within Google, Sullivan was a publisher for numerous decades. His experience puts him in a unique position, understanding intimately what it’s like to be on the opposite side of Google’s influence.


Unveiling the Equity of Google’s Rich Results


Within the realm of legality, a defined notion of fairness might exist that allows Google to utilize website content in a manner that might appear as though they’re “appropriating” content from a publisher to surpass that publisher with their own material.

Yet, beyond legal confines, there’s a subjective interpretation of fair play—one sensed intuitively. This notion of fairness resonates with many publishers when Google seemingly employs its content in a way that appears to benefit Google more than it does the original publisher.

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Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]