This is NOT good news for authors.
The case, in brief, involved an author who put a story on his website, and then removed it. Before he removed it, google's search bot (googlebot) crawled his site, and google saved the file & then presented it as "cached" material in google searches.
The author sued, claiming he had not given google permission to repost the material on their server. Google won in court, because the author had not used a "no cache" or "no archive" tag, telling Google NOT to do that.
I very sincerly hope this ruling is appealed and overturned. It's NOT a writer friendly ruling. Basically what the court ruled was that to prevent copyright theft, you have to actually tell the party, using THEIR rules, not to take the article and republish it.
The way Google's cache works is that, when Google crawls a Web site, it "saves" a copy of the Web site as it looks at that instant in time. When you do a Google search, you're given two options -- a link to the current web site or a link to Google's cached site, which is hosted (published!) on Google's server(s). Mind, the saved page may have broken links. If it's an old version, it may have outdated information.
If you look at a cached version of a Web site on Google, it's got Google's information at the top. So not only is it theft, they're branding YOUR work with THEIR trademark.
And moreover, say you sell exclusive pub rights to XYZ Writer's E-zine. They have paid $$$ for exclusive pub rights to your article. And along comes Google, and without paying either you or the E-zine, they steal your article and put it on THEIR site. And they don't pay you a dime. This is annoying under any circumstance. In my case, I make $$ on advertising on my site. The cache does not show my ads.
(I will ignore the irony, for the moment, of the fact that it's Google Adsense ads making me money.)
But wait! This is google, right? It's okay if Google archives my site, some people say, because everybody goes to Google to FIND my site.
Well, there's a really scary precedent here and that is that you have to enter a code into your HTML telling Google NOT to archive it. These codes are not standardized. There's no law saying that Joe Blow's Search Engine needs to heed a "No Cache" code. Joe Blow's Search Engine could decide that their standard is a tag that says "No Robots" or "No Steal" or "Do-Not-Archive-On-Joe-Blow's-Search-Engine-Ever-Under-Any-Circumstances!" repeated after every 100 characters, and only valid on files ending in "s" ... you get the idea.
Say Joe Blow decides he wants to do a Web site on Red Widgets. Based on this law, he could set his Web site up with a note somewhere in 2 point type, in lime green on yellow, in an obscure corner of the site, telling you how to opt out of being included. And it's complicated and difficult and a total pain in the butt and you'd have to KNOW what he's doing to opt out -- and he doesn't have to tell you about it.
If you DON'T opt out, Joe Blow's Red Widget site automatically goes out, copies all your articles on Red Widgets, reposts them to Joe Blow's site. Because Joe Blow does this to as many websites as he can find, he has the biggest repository of articles on Red Widgets, and ends up ranked high in the search engine ratings. And then he plunks advertising down, maybe in frames, surrounding the archived pages that YOU wrote and he makes $$$. And maybe $$$$. (Adsense really does pay well.)
There's also a second issue here, and that's first pub rights.
From what I've heard, a lot of publishers look the other way regarding first pub rights if the story's been put in a passworded forum that's only open to members, for critique purposes. However, will they look the other way if it's already pubbed on Google? Hypothetically, you could put a story somewhere on the internet that you think is safe and Google could come along and stick it on their site.
Plus, even if you don't sell the story -- well, I can tell you, much to my chagrin, that some stories I wrote more than ten years ago are floating around on the 'net. They're horribly bad, and I wish they'd just go away, but Google's got them cached and anyone who searches for my real name (like an employer -- it's funny the things you don't think of when you're a teenager!) will find these really bad, really embarassing stories.
But the bottom line here is that it just became a whole heck of a lot easier for scraper sites to steal your copyrighted work -- and do so legally in the US. And then they can make money off YOUR work and you'll never see a penny of it.
I'm actually not all that worried about Google's archive which. I'm very worried about the proverbial Joe Blow's Blue WIdgets websites, that may take your articles under the guise of, "They didn't say we couldn't!" and make money off them. This is a real possibility. They already do this illegally on a regular basis. And now it just takes a bit of programming to make it all legal.