Google Paying Belgian Newspaper to List Their Content?
It's been a fascinating, yet troubling, year in relations between Google and global news publishers. Brazilian news sites have moved to block Google from accessing their sites, claiming that they're breaching copyright laws by doing so. The French meanwhile have been driving an EU law that would force Google to pay publishers for including their sites in their index.
On the surface it's hard to see this as anything but last ditch tactics from a media industry that is scrabbling around for a digital strategy. After all Google supplies a large number of free visitors to news sites. Surely they should be grateful rather than angry?
Except, their tactics appear to be working. News emerged this week that Google has made a payment to Belgian newspapers in a bid to end a long running copyright dispute.
The publishers had been demanding a fee every time Google either links to or displays an excerpt from one of their stories. Who has won this dispute tends to depend on which media you read. American outlets seem to regard this as a win for Google, but European publishers are far more bullish. Le Monde for instance talk of Google having to bend to the will of publishers, compensating them to the tune of 2 to 3% of sales, or around 5 million euros.
Google themselves reveal that they've bought a few million dollars worth of advertising on these sites in the hope of avoiding direct copyright litigation.
It all seems a rather hollow victory. Whilst Google can technically claim it doesn't pay for copyright, by making this concession it seems certain that other publishers will now be beating a path to their door asking for similar deals.
France and Germany are already kicking up dust over the copyright issue too (so is Brazil). The Le Monde story will only embolden them.
It does appear odd however that Google are not contesting this, as it would appear their fair use case is a strong one. One suspects this will be an issue with some way to go yet.