Why Should AFP Need To License The Right For Google To Link To Its News Stories?

from the but-now-what dept

Two years ago, the news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) bizarrely sued Google for linking to its news stories via its news search engine, Google News. This made very little sense, as it basically made it much harder for people to find or read AFP news. In a highly competitive news market, making it harder to find your news isn’t a particularly intelligent strategy. This actually made a number of news sites that licensed AFP news quite angry because they lost a ton of traffic that Google News drove to their sites. A similar story played itself out recently in Belgian courts with Google being barred from linking to certain Belgian newspaper sites as well. However, the AFP lawsuit was still out there, until today, when Google and AFP announced a settlement, including a license from AFP to put its stories back into Google News.

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many details. It’s unclear if Google paid any money for this “right” or if AFP finally came to its senses and realized that cutting yourself off from Google isn’t particularly useful. Either way, though, it still sets a bad precedent that Google had to secure a special license to link to content. There’s simply no need for a license to index and link to content — and Google agreeing to a license from AFP just means that now other publishers will start lining up claiming that Google should pay them as well. It’s the same thing that has happened since content companies discovered Google was willing to pay off record labels for having their content on YouTube. That eventually resulted in just about every media company lining up for its own cut — and, eventually to Viacom’s decision to sue for $1 billion, when Google wouldn’t pony up as much as Viacom wanted. Google is setting a bad precedent here, agreeing to license content it doesn’t need to license, and it’s only going to create more problems down the road as other content firms line up demanding payment for similar licenses.

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Comments on “Why Should AFP Need To License The Right For Google To Link To Its News Stories?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Google is setting a bad precedent here

For a co. that says it doesn’t do evil, it’s not willing to take a stand on many issues, or take the long term view when a few bucks are on the table. ex: China, and the other examples mentioned in this article.

Oh well, why should we expect otherwise – just because they have a nice advertising slogan?

webtech logmix (user link) says:

Google’s business runs on somebody else content. Content owners deserve a share of profit made by Google. How much they share depends on power of Google Vs power of content owners. AFP’s move may be a tactical error but it sets things straight. What if everyone started pulling out of Google and goes to some other search engine who is willing to pay a share of advertisement money from News Search. I am not arguing for or against any particular organisation. I am trying to point out that companies like AFP are required to set the right balance of power.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Google’s business runs on somebody else content. Content owners deserve a share of profit made by Google.

This statement keeps getting thrown around, but it’s ridiculous. Do mapmakers need to pay companies for showing people how to get to different locations? No. Do phonebooks have to pay people to make it easier to contact you? No.

Making it easier for someone to find you or your content doesn’t mean they’re “running their business on someone else’s content.” Their business is making it easier to find your content, which is a very different thing.

Please stop spouting the myth that they’re making money on someone else’s content. That’s not what makes them money. Helping people find your content does — and that’s good for everyone.

umopapisdn (user link) says:


The simple fact of the matter is, the world is confused and blinded by the greed of the media companies involved. They believe the propaganda without researching the reality. If Google displayed 100% of the articles on its own news site, then certainly they should pay a license. However, they don’t do this. They show a snippet of the new article and then link to the original source. As a result, although Google News gets traffic by having this information, the originating news websites also get traffic. And, the traffic that the originating news sources get are FROM the traffic that Google acquires.

In other words, Google is giving the news sites free traffic. Furthermore, the snippets they show fall under the “fair use” clause (at least in U.S. law.) This law was meant to allow users to quote minimal amounts of an original work as long as the original author is giving credit. In addition to giving credit, Google is also providing a direct link.

Imagine this. A book store sells books. It certainly makes sense that if the book store sells a book in its entirety, a portion of the money should go to the distributor/publisher/author of the book. However, do book stores also need to pay a license fee due to the fact that plenty of people also read portions of the book in the store when deciding to buy? If the store also sells coffee, should a portion of these profits also be shared with the distributors/publishers/authors? After all, nobody goes to a book store to specifically drink coffee, they are there for the books. So, clearly the books should get credit for the coffee that is sold.

In reality, the opposite is true. Book authors/distributors/publishers are HAPPY to get their books into as many book stores as possible. This results in exposure… which results in sales… which results in money. Likewise, the media should be HAPPY to get their news articles into as many news aggregators (such as Google News) as possible. This results in exposure… which results in visits to the original articles… which results in (advertising) money.

In fact, I found this news article via Google News which led me to this site. If it weren’t for Google News, I probably would never bother visiting this site as often as I find myself returning through Google News referrals.

dazcon5 says:


Google should just comply and stop indexing their content. Then a few months down the road they look at the stats. and wonder where all their traffic went. When they come wibbling back to Google to index them again, Google can say “SURE but it’s going to cost you BIG TIME”… Google drives people TO your content by making it easier to find.
Once again greed trumps common sense. This boils down to extortion “pay up or else”. I pass the ID10T torch to these fools.

ehrichweiss says:

Re: Okay!

I agree. I don’t know if they still do this but Yahoo used to say “we MIGHT index you if we like you but only when we’re ready…and if you want to pay a few dollars, we’ll get right to it”. I don’t want to see Google do this but it seems the IT departments of these businesses needs to kick someone’s ass and it’s likely the legal department…assuming they know about SEO that is.

Mark Seecof says:

Google licenses to discourage its competitors

Look, Google is rich. It could fend off license demands, or it could make deals–generally cheap ones, since Google is well-placed to refuse. By making cheap deals, Google makes life difficult for anyone who proposes to compete with Google. They would have to either pay for equivalent licenses (probably paying more than Google did) or fight, with Google on the licensor’s side(!).

Mike C. says:

Odd thought - are they raising the bar?

I have no idea where this thought came from, but maybe this is all a misguided attempt by Google to raise the entry bar for other news aggregators. Now that they’ve paid up, the news sites can go to any OTHER new aggregator and demand the same fees. Those that can’t pay up are out of the biz leaving Google in the lead.

Probably just another wack-job consipiracy theory, but I like trying to imagine all possible reasons for an unexplainably stupid action… 🙂

Bob says:


Well, i t shows that google without the oldest news agancy is nothing than a bi partisant news engine, driving things that are copyrighted isn’t the problem, they just release in a way that shadows others, AFP is right google dropped thier pants to get a real world wide news picture “fair and balanced” , news wires aren’t referencing sites, they works on immediat products, when a garbage as google choose one, it shadow the others, when its free, now they paye, they will have to release payed news wires!

simple and efficient, wellcome back AFP!

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