I was having a conversation with Tony Sumrall about the ethics of publishing a feed of comic strips. Since the syndicates themselves have decided against sending comics by email (at least decided against doing it for free), do we have the right to grab the image URL from their pages and create a feed of those URLs? Let’s look and see.
The comics.com terms aren’t terribly clear. I think the big question for them is: Is a URL considered material, or is it the image itself that is the material? If the answer is no, then this is clearly not a violation. If Google indexes their site and has a link to an image, is that a violation? If not, then I don’t see how this could be. You might argue that Google doesn’t actually display the image, while an aggregator does. To that I say: Have you ever tried the Google Viewer? Try it – Google displays the comic right there on their page.
The Google Viewer argument? Doesn’t hold water here. If you search on ucomics.com fifth wave, you’ll get some results. The first of which is the ucomics.com page for The Fifth Wave. However, this page doesn’t display in the viewer. I can only assume that ucomics.com and Google have worked some sort of arrangement.
These are difficult questions. I don’t know the answer to them. I think that if it came to a court, you may see the syndicates win their case, as distinctions such as those made here may not be quite so distinct in a court of law that doesn’t understand the intricacies of technology. Remember that Because Google Does It is probably not a valid defense. Finally, make sure you know that I am not a lawyer, and this is only my interpretation. Your own mileage may vary.