“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

The Belgian Newspapers and Agence France-Presse just don’t get it

Posted by direwolff on September 20, 2006

We’ve seen the future and it will be…guess some news paper executives haven’t seen it yet.

According to this New York Times article, the Belgian courts have found that Google is violating the copyrights of several Belgian newspapers that have banded together to form a consortium. There are further comments from a representative of the Agence France-Presse (AFP), the French equivalent to the Associated Press, agreeing with the ruling. So here are a few points about this.

First off, any one who has ever bothered to use Google News knows that it’s a practical way of seeing news headlines and perhaps an incomplete sentence which is just enough to tease you into clicking and going to the full story. Next, there’s this little issue called “fair use”, which I don’t know how it’s handled in the European Union, but to think that you couldn’t reprint the headline and the first sentence or less of a news story from a specific news paper seems ludicrous by even the most stern standards. Finally, what are these people missing? Who else can drive the kind of traffic that Google can (well perhaps Baidu in China) at no cost. Why would these newspapers even consider the idea of walling themselves off or hope that end-users start coming to them directly? This walling off concept works to counter the popularity of a publication. Over time, that publication becomes irrelevant because it’s so much easier to get to the news of those who offer it online easily through channels we already use for many purposes.

Right now I’d be licking my chops if I was an entrepreneur in Belgium wanting to enter the news reporting business since it’s clear that opportunity is knocking at the door with this narrow minded court ruling. Imagine, all of a sudden, you could be the only news site that Google News links to on the Web. Wow!!! What’s that worth to an entrepreneur? It’s better than cash, that’s for sure.

Of course, the French arrogance did come shining through with the AFP representative’s response to Google’s comments:

“Google has a clear policy of respecting the wishes of content owners,” he said. “If a newspaper does not want to be part of Google News we remove their content from our index; all they have to do is ask. There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs.”

Mr. Louette of Agence France-Presse said that stance missed the point. “Effectively,’’ he said, “they are offering us an opt-out from appearing on Google, but this doesn’t address the real problem, which is that they attach no value to the headlines, pictures and text from around the world that we spend a lot of money producing.”

You can tell the irony of his comment is lost on him. He claims that Google attaches no value to their content, which is precisely why people that see a story on Google News click directly to it knowing that the value they will get from the news site is superior to the headline and the one line cryptic excerpt they see on Google News. What’s even more telling however and really shows what this is all about is his comments that Google needs to ask for permission rather than the publishers needing to opt-out. It’s this sort of attitude that has done damage to copyright holders in this country and obviously about to do the same to those in the E.U.

Haven’t these guys been watching what’s happening with YouTube and why Warner Music just did a deal with them allowing Warner’s music to be included in people’s videos? Haven’t they been following the Google Books initiatives and their negotiations with book publishers on these matters. It’s about being found. Oh well, “you can walk a mule to water but you can’t make it drink” ;-)

News providing entrepreneurs, REJOICE!…the future is yours if this ruling holds up after Google’s appeals.


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