Hot on the heels of legal attempts to stop Google from creating
a digital library of published books, the internet search giant’s bread
and butter news aggregation service has come under attack. Amid growing
concern that the news services of search
engines carry the headline and part of the story from news providers
without
permission or payment, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has
thrown its weight behind a lawsuit recently launched in US federal
court by Agence France Presse, challenging
Google’s wildly
successful news-search service.

WAN, which represents 18,000 newspapers and 73
national newspaper associations, has assembled a task force of industry publishing
associations that will seek compensation for the use of their content by
Google and other search engines, reportsThe Independent. It will also examine whether new standards
and policies could be drafted to create a commercial relationship between
publishers, search engines and content aggregators.

But WAN president Gavin O’Reilly says this might be difficult to achieve when it comes to Google. “If you subscribe to the Ten
Commandments, Google operates with only nine, leaving out ‘thou shalt not
steal’,” said O’Reilly – also chief operating officer of
Independent News & Media, publisher of The
Independent
. “As a general rule, Yahoo, MSN
and Ask Jeeves seem more open to constructive dialogue. It’s only Google which
seems to have this absolute view [that all information should be available for
free].”

Google claims it allows news organisations to “opt
out” of Google News. Meanwhile, a report by Deutsche Bank said the impact
of broadband internet services was “materially” negative across the
media sector, and that newspapers were the worst hit. Deutsche said that with two
major newspaper publishers having announced plans for divestment, there were
“signs of a Torschlusspanik… the moment when everyone rushes for the
door at once.”

Peter Fray

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