Every so often, some European body sues Google for doing its job as a search engine by directing people to sites they are trying to find. That was recently the case with a group of German publishers.
In reality, over the years online search engines have saved the Internet from becoming a useless network where users do nothing more than email and run Gopher, a crude proto-search engine that was useful for finding certain properly-categorised ASCII documents. (It is useless by today's standards).
The changes in the utility of the Internet began with the roll out of the World Wide Web and the Mosaic browser, which appeared on the Macintosh. Mosaic was actually eschewed by Apple in favour of its own online competitor to AOL called eWorld, which appeared in 1994, just as the Internet was about to explode. Microsoft was just as blind as it pushed its player, MSN.
Not everyone was as flat-footed as the established geniuses, however, and as the web grew, the need for search engines quickly became apparent. Yahoo provided the necessary bridge to search engines with its directories, but it could not keep up with the growth. It switched to a search model quickly.
If it wasn't for Alta Vista, the progenitor to Google, and a slew of other experimental search engines, we'd probably all be on eWorld today. The engines allowed us to find things on the Internet, and if nobody can find you on the Internet, you may as well not even be there.
So apparently, the group of German publishers did not understand this fact because it sued the search engine companies that locate them and their services for hapless users. Without Google or other "offending" search engines, there would be little access to the publishing sites.
It reminds me of the time a group of Belgian newspapers sued Google a few years back because the search engine yielded results that excerpted a sentence or two from their sites to help users determine if the link was relevant. Google lost the case and simply blocked the sites. Of course, these sites could have added a robots.txt to block their own sites if they had a clue about how this all works, but no, they sued instead. Then, these same fools complained about being blocked. In fact, they whined about how their traffic dipped because of Google.
Similarly, there were early attempts to block the use of links on the Internet because an owner claimed copyright over a URL. Luckily, the courts threw that one out. The link is a mechanism part and parcel to the Internet; the links are not some great work of creativity akin to Shakespeare. It's like claiming copyright over my street address and trying to sue anyone who writes me a letter.
This is the kind of brain-dead mania these companies have to endure to stay in business. All the search engines should form a club to find these sorts of offending corporations and block them for good. But that's probably illegal, too.
So Google won this latest battle with the idiot publishers in Germany, but the company will have to keep its snippets short. How short? We don't actually know, but we will find out soon after the next lawsuit. And we all know that will be coming soon.