Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Indexing the excuse, power the objective

The Dutch newswire ANP and the Dutch and Flanders newspapers are upset as Google has started Google news in Dutch. (People in the Netherlands and Flanders in Belgian speak basically the same language)

The Belgian newspapers are already protesting against this move of Google and have promised to take the company to court, if it is not going to pay. The Belgian Standard newspaper has already blocked the link of Google. The Dutch publishers are less sure and have not yet decided what action to take. The newspapers of course are all looking at the legal action the French newswire AFP took. AFP demanded compensation. As a counter measure Google now filters out the news items of AFP.

The reaction of Google Benelux marketing manager Sidney Mock in the Dutch daily NRC-Handelsblad was blunt. He did not ask permission from the publishers, he said, but he informed all the publishers in the Netherlands and Flanders about the service. Besides, he said, Google did not need permission, as Google presents news as a result of the indexing. He is surprised that the newspapers are as vehemently opposed as Google news generates more traffic for them and as Google does not pick up revenues from ads.

It is hard to get an injunction against indexing news sources. This was shown when Dutch publishers tried to prohibit to do so. But despite this jurisprudence, I guess that Google might find itself in court soon, as Dutch and Belgian law on news is different from the Anglo-Saxon and American jurisprudence. There is a lot of jurisprudence on citation right and copyright on photographs in newspapers.

Funny thing is that the Dutch and Flanders newspaper publishers just had everything under control with the (electronic) clipping and aggregation service. It took them almost 10 years to get a handle on this and the CLIP service still could use some good marketing. And again, now they are basically back to the classic publishers’ waiting problem. They always wait instead of acting pro-actively. If the publishers had started themselves a good indexing service or had associated themselves with an indexing service as part of a common marketing action, Google would have had competition. In court the publishers could have pointed to their own service instead of getting an injunction.

Another funny thing is that the Dutch newspaper publishers are now contemplating action against Google, while the Dutch book publishers are almost in bed with Google. The Dutch Publishers association has a round-table planned with a Google official and a publisher telling about the Google Print program. No opponent, e.g. from the German publishing association, has been invited. The German publishing association has decided to start an indexing system for themselves as well as a search system. So the publishers will offer their own system and can offer this to Google at their own terms.

Whatever started out as a search service for internet, has now become a power play roughing up many intellectual property rights issues. Indexing is the excuse, power the objective.

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