Google Gets Patent For Variable Content Access By Geography

Google was grated a patent that discusses a system of  determining content access privileges by country/geography.  While it undoubtedly has multiple uses, Google book scanning and search appears to be the primary intended use case. ArsTechnia brings it to our attention.

Here’s the patent summary:

A system comprising: one or more devices to implement: means for receiving a search query from a user; means for selecting a document that includes terms from the search query; means for determining access privileges to the document for the user based on geographical location information of the user, access rights associated with the document, and applicable copyright laws, the document access privileges being determined in a spectrum of access privileges that extends from viewable access to the entire document to viewable access to a portion of the document that is less than the entire document; means for processing selected portions of one or more sections of the document determined to be relevant to the user to make the selected portions unreadable to the user, the selected portions of the one or more sections of the document being chosen based on the determined access privileges and where the one or more sections of the document include the terms from the search query; means for retrieving additional information relating to the access rights, where the additional information comprises at least one of: whether to block images and graphics in the document from being displayed, a list of domains from which not to display advertisements with the document, a logo or a link to be displayed with the document, or whether to display advertisements with the document; means for formatting the document based on the additional information; and means for transmitting the processed and formatted document to the user.

Eyes rolling back in your head? Here’s an important bit: “means for determining access privileges to the document for the user based on geographical location information of the user, access rights associated with the document, and applicable copyright laws . . .”

There are varying laws about copyright in different jurisdictions around the globe. Google’s book scanning (and other copyrighted material indexed by Google) could be more or less available or accessible in some countries than others. Assuming the Google Book Search settlement is approved, many English-speaking countries outside the US won’t be participating.

Here’s more discussion from the patent application:

One category of content that is not widely available on the Internet, however, are the more traditional printed works of authorship, such as books and magazines. Before presenting this type of digital content to users, the content may first be scanned using an optical scanner. Once scanned, optical character recognition (OCR) may be used to convert text in the scanned digital images of the pages of the content to a searchable digital form.

When transmitting the scanned/OCR’ed version of the content (e.g., books or magazines) to users, the content provider may only be able to lawfully provide certain portions of the content to the users. For example, the content provider may provide certain books that are in the public domain and other documents for which the content provider does not have full legal rights. Accordingly, the portions of the book that the content provider chooses to provide to the users may vary.

This would appear to be a scalable automated way for Google to comply with differing copyright laws by country.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Book Search | Google: Legal | Google: Outside US | Legal: Copyright


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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