The Yomiuri Shimbun versus the net

Back in September 2004, when Google launched the Japanese version of its Google News site, the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s major newspapers, refused to cooperate with Google: it stated its headlines were copyright protected and thus could not be reproduced. Furthermore, Yomiuri also objected against Google News’ “deep linking” to its (otherwise freely accessible) online articles. At that time, the Yomiuri Shimbun was also in the middle of a legal battle with Digital Alliance Corp., a Japanese company that was doing the same thing as what Google wanted to do with Google News: quoting Yomiuri headlines and linking to them. The Tokyo District Court had chosen the side of Digital Alliance Corp., but Yomiuri appealed.

A month ago, the District’s Court decision was overturned by the Intellectual Property High Court, a special branch court of the Tokyo High Court: it ruled news headlines could be protected under copyright and ordered Digital Alliance Corp. to pay about 237,700 yen of damages to Yomiuri Online.

Curious about the impact of this ruling (and about the seriousness of their linking policy), I sent a mail to the Yomiuri Copyright department asking them if I could link to their coverage of the Court’s ruling and use the article’s headline as the link text. ;-)

A couple of days later (interestingly enough after the article had moved to the archives and wasn’t accessible anymore), I received the following reply (links activated for ease of use):

Dear Mr. Andreas Bovens,

Thank you very much for your inquiry sent
Friday, October 14, 2005 4:34 PM,
requsting [sic] linkage from your weblog

to our headline



If your request is for this particular headline only,
I see no problem in giving you permission. Please go
ahead and establish the link.

Just to make sure you abide by our rules,
please read carefully

the “Copyright” page

and “Linking Policy” page

Please ask me if you have other questions.


Impressive, no?

Also worth noting: when you search Google News and Google News Japan for articles about the ruling, English as well as Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun articles are among the results… Did Google and Yomiuri reach an agreement in the meantime?

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