First They Came For Google…

Bloggers should pay a lot of attention to this story because if Google were to go down in flames, we can expect to be the next target on the list:

“A group of newspaper, magazine and book publishers is accusing Google and other aggregators of online news stories of unfairly exploiting their content. They are demanding compensation from search engines.

Gavin O’Reilly, the president of the World Association of Newspapers, which is co-ordinating the campaign, said on Tuesday: “We need search engines, and they do help consumers navigate an increasingly complicated medium, but they’re building [their business] on the back of kleptomania.”

The group of publishers, which includes the International Publishers’ Association, the European Federation of Magazine Publishers and Agence France Presse, is seeking meetings with Charlie McCreevy, the European Union’s internal market commissioner, and Viviane Reding, the commissioner responsible for media. It would not rule out legal action to enforce copyright or “collective action”, Mr O’Reilly said. “Ultimately, the aggregators need the content providers.”

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Services such as Google News link to original news stories on the home pages of newspapers and magazines and display only the headline and one paragraph of the story. “That’s often enough” for readers browsing the top stories, Mr O’Reilly said.

…The growth of online news aggregators has coincided with an acceleration in the long-term trend of declining readership for print newspapers and a shift in advertising spending from print to the internet, much of which is not being captured by the newspapers’ own sites.

“The search engines are increasingly aiming their strategic efforts at traditional content originators and aggregators like newspaper publishers,” Mr O’Reilly said. “The irony is that these search engines exist, largely, because of the traditional news and content aggregators and profit at their expense.”

The WAN, which represents 18,000 newspapers and 73 national newspaper associations, said it would examine whether new standards and policies could be drafted to create a commercial relationship between publishers, search engines and content aggregators.”

Note that what they’re complaining about is Google posting a single paragraph of a story with a link back. Bloggers do that all day, every day, and worse (There are 7 paragraphs quoted here for example). Imagine having to pay the New York Times, WAPO, and every other newspaper in America $5 to quote a single paragraph from one of their stories — and it could happen if this went to court and Google lost. Were that to happen, it would certainly change copyright law and at minimum, it would seriously hamper online growth. At worst, it’s possible that it could drive all but the biggest bloggers and mags online out of business.

On the upside, Google has the money for top notch lawyers and because of the First Amendment, it seems unlikely to me that Google could lose this case, if it came to that, in the US. But, when you’re talking about powerful members of the media, with enormous influence, and practically unlimited bankrolls who are desperate to shut down the competition that’s slowly eating them alive one bit at a time, you never know what might happen.

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