by Christina Cullen
Last week my father asked me “What do the letters A.D. stand for?” as I racked my brain for the Latin Anno Domini and realized how little I had paid attention during my Catholic school days. He continued, “You know, when you search for something on Google, you sometimes see the letters A.D. What does that mean?”
My father recently retired from a corporate job and started his own signage business. He is a master networker and can make personal connections in minutes, but for him the online realm is a new landscape. Despite being the first in our family to own a computer, smartphone, and tablet as well as the fact that Google Adwords, the world’s first “self-service advertising program” was launched in 2000, two decades passed before he realized these two tiny black letters at the top of a Google search are the abbreviation of advertisement.
Google Poetry, Authorship, and Copyright
In October 2012, a poet named Sampsa Nuotio created a site called “Google Poetics,” which posts submissions by poets from around the world, each of which is created in a nontraditional way. Each submission is derived from Google’s autocomplete suggestions, which appear when any Google user is typing in a search phrase. The suggested searches are predictions about what a user might be searching for, based on common searches performed by other users:
The suggested searches can form a unique and sometimes moving series of phrases that read like poetry: they demonstrate poetic repetition, show a particular mood or theme, and evoke an emotional reaction in the reader. A recent example from November 5, 2013 demonstrates how these poems can be very moving. The first line shows what the poet typed, and the following four lines show Google’s suggested searches:
The result reads like a poem, with the repetition of the phrase “Though I” as a way of contrasting the different lines. It has the tone of a poem, speaking about love and death, which are common themes in poetry. It even makes the reader consider the deeper meaning behind the lines, such as what the poet “disagreed with” and whether the “departure” in the last line might be an implied death. These elements are all common in poetry, but is this really a poem? Three important questions emerge when considering this style of poetry. First, can such a poem be considered a creative or literary work, when it was randomly generated with very little influence from the poet? Second, can the poet truly be considered the author of the poem, when they didn’t write it, but instead discovered it? And third, should such poems be protected under copyright, or instead be considered part of the public domain?