Foolish suits over Google News

According to Reuters, Agence France Presse has sued Google Inc. in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleging Google includes AFP’s photos, news headlines and stories on its news site without permission. The suit asks $17.5 million in damages and for Google to cease using AFP material.

It’s an intriguing story on many fronts. Google’s ability to tap databases deep within the layers of Websites is what makes its search so effective and user-friendly. As I’ve written about previously, however, this upsets some who believe the practice “steals” their copyrighted material. AFP is apparently one of them. The Reuters report also references an adult Website that is suing Google for tapping its images.

Staci Kramer, writing in Paid Content says things could get interesting:

AFP wants damages for a service that is free to users and ad-free; some. myself included, think one reason the site remains ad-free and in beta is to avoid complications/confrontations like this. AFP says Google News is damaging its subscription-only service.

Many other news organizations have found ways to be comfortable with Google News, learning how best to use it to drive traffic. For instance, some reg-only outlets allow those following links to read that story without registering and then offer a registration form when they try to see another story on the site. Others simply put the registration form up.

I agree with Staci that the Reuters article goes too far when it states flatly that Google posts news stories on its site.
Google News often includes story leads with headlines and links and it showcases photos on news servers by using coding but it does not post news stories. The whole point of the service is to expose readers to a variety of news sources and take them directly to the source.
This is going to be a fascinating story to watch, because everybody loses if AFP and others are successful. AFP may protect its material, but in so doing, it shoots itself in the foot by blocking a significant number of news browsers from easy access to its news. Google isn’t stealing material. They’re making it easy for users to get to the “content” that AFP produces. How foolish to stop that and demand that people find it another way.

The issue is much bigger than Google (although that’s pretty freaking big), because it strikes at the architecture of the Internet and sweeps into its path all sites and business models built around the concept of aggregation. What AFP and everyone else needs to remember is that it’s a different world in here than it is out there. People are in control here, and you mess with that at your own peril.


  1. Here we go again! There is nothing fascinating here. As many folks have said time and time again, If you don’t want folks to see it. keep it off the web!

    The more relevant and frightening thing is a Google Response like deleting AFP from their database, and removing from it’s spiders.

    These guys want to whine about linking on the web, let them. Loosing one or more of the search engine mentions will have a far greater impact than a 17 mil payday, which I doubt very seriously that they will see a nickel/franc.

    I seem to remember that this nonsense was settled in the Deep linking ticketmaster case.

    I wrote a bit about hiding content some time ago they may help them understand how the web works.

    But it’s Valuable Fish Wrap!!!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.