Legal precedent is interesting because it invariably encourages people to push the boundaries, and that is just what Microsoft is doing with its new search engine, Bing.
At the heart of the controversy is Bing’s inclusion of video clips in the search results page that play when users hover over them with a cursor.
So what’s so controversial about that?
Well, it means that users of Bing will be able to see short previews of clips without visiting the hosting site and therefore without viewing all the associated advertising.
Also, web filtering software will be unable to block search results that may include video clips from X-rated sites, but Microsoft says explicit images are excluded by default.
Bing therefore aims to capitalise on the precedent set by rival Google as it begins what Microsoft hopes will be a successful assault to win heart, minds and market share.
A US federal appeals court found Google did not infringe on Perfect 10, an adult magazine site, by displaying thumbnail versions of those photos in its search results, the FT said.
The Google thumbnails were found to be “fair use” of Perfect 10’s content and therefore did not infringe on copyright.
Bing goes just a little bit further with video and it will be interesting to see if content providers and ultimately the courts agree that the ‘fair use’ defence still holds.
The real test will be if content providers notice a significant drop in visitors to their sites and they are able to link that with the advent of Bing.