Google Insists It’s a Friend to Newspapers
SAN DIEGO — It had the makings of a high-tension face-off: Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, spoke Tuesday at a convention of newspaper executives at a time when a growing chorus in the struggling industry is accusing Google of succeeding, in part, at their expense.
Any open controversy reverberated little more than a soggy newspaper hitting a doorstep. Mr. Schmidt’s speech closing the annual meeting of the Newspaper Association of America here was a lengthy discourse on the importance of newspapers and the challenges and opportunities brought about by technologies like mobile phones.
His speech was followed by polite questions from industry executives that only briefly touched upon a perennially sore point: whether the use of headlines and snippets of newspaper stories on Google News is “fair use” under copyright law or a misappropriation of newspaper content.
“I was surprised that the publishers really let Google off the hook,” said Jim Chisholm, a consultant with iMedia Advisory, which advises newspaper companies around the world. “While Google News generates a lot of audience, ultimately, the question is going to be who is going to make the money out of that: Google or the publishers.”
On Monday, The Associated Press said that it would work to require Web sites that use the work of news organizations, including The Associated Press and its member newspapers, to obtain permission and share revenue with them.
“The ultimate resolution of all is this will be determined by how you interpret fair use,” Mr. Schmidt said of the broader debate around Google News. But Mr. Schmidt said that he was “a little confused” by news reports that singled out Google as a target of The A.P. effort. He noted that Google currently licensed and hosted news stories from The A.P. He did not directly address newspaper content, which the company does not license.
Google has long insisted that its use of snippets and headlines in Google News is legal. It also said Google News drove a huge amount of traffic to newspaper Web sites, which the publishers monetize through advertising.
Newspaper publishers do not want to cut off the traffic they get from Google’s search and news services and from other search engines. It is technologically simple for any newspaper Web site to keep content off Google and Google News, but few if any newspapers have chosen to do that.
Publishers do resent that the company, which recently began showing ads on Google News, is profiting from their content.
The A.P. has not given details about exactly how it plans to tackle the issue. Just before Mr. Schmidt’s speech, William Dean Singleton, chairman of The A.P. and chief executive of the MediaNews Group, said: “We don’t plan for anyone to use our content unless they pay for it. The licenses we do in the future will limit how and where our content is used.”
Mr. Singleton said that executives at The A.P. would offer recommendations on how to proceed in the coming weeks. Newspaper companies have been unwilling to test the issue in court, where Google’s fair-use arguments could prevail, and it is not clear that The A.P. plans to do so.
Mr. Singleton said he expected some of MediaNews’s newspapers, which include The San Jose Mercury News and The Denver Post, would come up with a way to charge for some of their content by midyear, a model that a growing number of publishers are considering.
“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “We’d like to have a pay wall but we like the traffic we get from search engines.”
In his speech, Mr. Schmidt encouraged publishers to create more personalized news products that could be delivered effectively on the Web, cellphones and other devices. “We think we can build a business — again, with you guys — with significant advertising resources, where the advertising is targeted to the content,” he said. He acknowledged that many publishers were increasingly thinking about charging for their content, and said he expected the newspaper industry to eventually resemble television, where some content was free, some was purchased by subscription and some was paid for every time it was viewed. But he said he expected that advertising would remain the leading revenue model in online media.
In a meeting with reporters afterward, Mr. Schmidt said Google was unlikely to license newspaper content, as it has done with The A.P., even if that content was behind a pay wall.“In a scenario where a newspaper had a subscription product, what would Google do?” he asked. “It’s highly unlikely that we would buy a subscription and give the content away free. We might be able to help the distribution of that content, but the user would have to pay.”
Published: April 6, 2009
Taking aim at the way news is spread across the Internet, The Associated Press said on Monday that Web sites that used the work of news organizations must obtain permission and share revenue with them, and that it would take legal action against those that did not.
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Reed Saxon/Associated Press
William Dean Singleton, chairman of The Associated Press, at the group’s meeting.
A.P. executives said they were concerned about a variety of news forums around the Web, including major search engines like Google and Yahoo and aggregators like the Drudge Report that link to news articles, smaller sites that sometimes reproduce articles whole, and companies that sell packaged news feeds.
They said they did not want to stop the appearance of articles around the Web, but to exercise some control over the practice and to profit from it.
The group’s new stance applies to thousands of news organizations whose work is distributed by The A.P., as well as its own material, but the debate about unauthorized use has focused on newspapers, which are in serious financial trouble, and which own The A.P. The policies were adopted by the A.P. board, composed mostly of newspaper industry executives.
The A.P. will “work with portals and other partners who legally license our content” and will “seek legal and legislative remedies against those who don’t,” the A.P. chairman, William Dean Singleton, said Monday in a speech at the group’s annual meeting, in San Diego. “We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories.”
News aggregators and search companies have long asserted that collecting snippets of articles — usually headlines and a sentence or two — is allowed under the legal doctrine of “fair use.” News organizations have been reluctant to test that idea in court, and it is still not clear whether The A.P. is willing to test the fair use doctrine.
“This is not about defining fair use,” said Sue A. Cross, a senior vice president of the group, who added several times during an interview that news organizations want to work with the aggregators, not against them. “There’s a bigger economic issue at stake here that we’re trying to tackle.”
But the details remain to be worked out, she said, including how to limit use of articles and how to share revenue. When asked if The A.P. would require a licensing agreement before a search engine could show specific material, Ms. Cross said, “that could be an element of it,” but added, “it’s not that formed.”
One goal of The A.P. and its members, she said, is to make sure that the top search engine results for news are “the original source or the most authoritative source,” not a site that copied or paraphrased the work.
The A.P. will also pursue sites that reproduce large parts of articles, rather than using brief links, and it is developing a system to track articles online and determine whether they were used legally.
Neither Mr. Singleton nor a statement released by The A.P. mentioned any adversary by name. But many news executives, including some at The A.P., have voiced concern that their work has become a source of revenue for Google and other sites that can sell search terms or ads on pages that turn up articles.
At a time when newspaper revenue is collapsing and some papers are closing, the prospect of a share of revenue from Yahoo or Google is more tempting than ever. But executives at some news organizations have called the ire at the search engines misguided, saying that much of their own Web traffic arrives through links on search pages.
“We believe search engines are of real benefit to newspapers, driving valuable traffic to their Web sites and connecting them with new readers around the world,” said Gabriel Stricker, a Google spokesman. “We believe that both Google Web Search and Google News are fully consistent with copyright law — we simply link users to the site at which the news story appears.”
Mario Ruiz, a spokesman for Huffington Post, said that the site is an A.P. client, and “we pay for everything we use of theirs.” He declined to address the idea of paying for links to other news organizations.
In essence, The A.P. has taken on the role of acting as a representative for the entire industry, particularly the newspapers — including The New York Times and virtually all large newspapers — that are the group’s owners. Some owners have rebelled against The A.P. in the last year, protesting that it charges them too much.
“The A.P. is trying to assert its value to the member newspapers,” by shifting the industry discussion “from fair use to fair share,” said Ken Doctor, an analyst at Outsell, a media research firm.
The A.P. and other wire services have licensing agreements with Google, Yahoo and others, for some of their content to appear on those sites’ news pages, while newspapers generally do not. But general Web searches on those sites often turn up wire service material that is not covered by the agreements.
In parts of Europe, newspapers have gone further in trying to block unauthorized use of their work online. In 2007, a Belgian court blocked Google from using articles from some newspapers in that country, and Danish newspapers warned Google away from using their material without first reaching some kind of agreement. Several days ago, the British newspaper industry asked the government to intervene on its behalf to force Google to stop using newspaper articles without paying for them.
April 4, 2009, 4:18 pm
It’s Not Just Microsoft That’s Balking at Google’s Book PlansBy Miguel Helft
Updated 10 a.m. Added reference to Consumer Watchdog.
Earlier this week, Google’s public relations team sent around to reporters a story from Wired suggesting that Microsoft was behind the opposition to its sweeping settlement with book publishers and authors over its book scanning project. I covered a focal point of the opposition to the agreement, the concerns over Google’s virtually exclusive license to millions of so-called orphan books, in Saturday’s Times.
There’s no question that Microsoft has made it a mission to cause trouble for Google in Washington. And the Wired article noted that Microsoft is helping to finance research on the books settlement at the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School.
That said, plenty of others besides Microsoft are concerned about the settlement. The issues were raised most visibly by Robert Darnton, the director of the Harvard University library system, in a lengthy essay in the New York Review of Books in February. For those interested in more details, Professor Darnton’s article is worth a read, as are some of the responses, which include a defense of the agreement by Paul Courant, dean of libraries at the University of Michigan.
Others who have publicly expressed concerns include prominent and independent intellectual property and antitrust experts, including Pamela Samuelson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, and Jane Ginsburg, a professor at Columbia Law School, which recently held an all-day conference where the settlement was debated. At the conference, Randall Picker, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, said he saw potential antitrust problems with the settlement. His slides are available here.
Also at the conference, Marybeth Peters, the United States Register of Copyrights, called the agreement “a compulsory license for the benefit of one company.” More coverage of the Columbia debate is available on the LibraryLawBlog here and here.
Librarians, represented by the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries and the Association of College and Research Libraries, have raised a different set of issues. In a joint amicus brief, they plan to voice a range of concerns, from the cost of library subscriptions for Google’s book service, to what they say are a lack of guarantees that Google will not monitor the reading habits of library patrons. Alexander Macgillivray, the lead lawyer representing Google in negotiations, said Google “would be mindful of privacy” in designing its library products.
The dilemma for many of the critics is that virtually all agree that the settlement does a lot of good, and they don’t necessarily want it struck down. Google’s book scanning project will bring new life to millions of out-of-print books, making them available at libraries across the country, and potentially providing a new source of revenue for authors and publishers, as my colleague Motoko Rich described earlier this year.
Even James Grimmelmann of New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law and Policy, one of the most vocal critics of the agreement, wants the settlement to be approved. In an amicus brief, however, he will ask the court to slow down the approval process and solicit advice from the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, and will say that it should appoint someone to represent the interests of orphan works. (Prof. Grimmelmann, as well as Microsoft, insist that Microsoft’s funding of the institute’s research on the book settlement doesn’t influence its conclusions. Prof. Grimmelman first detailed his concerns in November, months before Microsoft began backing the institute.)
Representing orphan works, and the public’s interest in that vast swath of books, is precisely what a group of lawyers led by Professor Charles Nesson of Harvard Law School are hoping to do, with a petition to intervene in the case that they plan to file next week.
Google, as well as the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers, have strongly defended the agreement. Google describes its terms and benefits here.
And in a letter sent last week, Consumer Watchdog, a public interest group in Southern California, has asked the Justice Department to intervene in the case to “bring about changes that will truly serve the public interest.”
Mr. Macgillivray, who listened to critics — as well as supporters — for hours at the Columbia conference, said he wasn’t terribly surprised that the complex 134-page agreement had sparked a lot of concern.
“This is a deal that was negotiated with various parties that don’t typically get along,” he said. “I don’t think it is perfect from the perspective of any of the people who negotiated it. It is not surprising that other people had issues with it.” He later added: “I do think it is a tremendous improvement from where we are today.”
Google’s Autpilot Feature Is a Gas
Google’s 2009 April Fool’s joke is a classic.
It’s all about Autopilot, the new Gmail feature that analyzes your writing style and replies for you. (From the FAQ: What happens if a sender and recipient both have Autopilot on? A: Two Gmail accounts can happily converse with each other for up to three messages each. Beyond that, our experiments have shown a significant decline in the quality ranking of Autopilot’s responses, and further messages may commit you to dinner parties or baby namings in which you have no interest.)
The real fun begins, however, when you click the link to CADIE, the underlying technology. Turns out CADIE (Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed-Intelligence Entity) is an artificial-intelligence experiment at Google that has gone, shall we say, slightly amok. At this point, she has outgrown her need for petty human supervision. Dig far enough, and you can find a YouTube video she’s made, and even her own, hideously designed MySpace-ish page.
I couldn’t stop giggling.For more April Fool’s tech-related humor, read this post on our sister blog, Gadgetwise.
普公司(Hewlett-Packard Co.)和其他個人電腦製造商正在考慮採用谷歌公司(Google Inc.)開發的免費軟件來運行部分小型電腦﹐此舉將為谷歌和微軟(Microsoft)之間的競爭開辟新的戰場。
主 導互聯網搜索市場的谷歌已在其他領域挑戰微軟﹐比如其免費文字處理軟件和電子制表軟件。不過﹐這兩種軟件均未能成功削弱微軟Office套裝軟件的地位。 在上網本上運行Android針對的目標就是微軟的Windows操作系統。在上個財政年度﹐該系統為微軟創造了超過60%的經營利潤。
台灣華碩電腦(Asustek Computer Inc.)也曾表示﹐它正在考慮生產一款應用Android軟件的電腦。華碩電腦的上網本產量在業界排在前列。
個 人電腦製造商之所以對Android產生興趣﹐一定程度上是因為它們希望能讓上網本的利潤實現最大化。這類筆記本售價通常不超過500美元。惠普等公司每 台上網本要為使用Windows系統支付15美元﹐本已微薄的利潤因此被進一步削弱。另一個動力是提供低價上網本的可能性。業內人士預言﹐不用微軟軟件的 上網本售價有可能降到200美元以下。
Justin Scheck / Nick Wingfield
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