Maureen Dowd today (New York Times, 4/15/09) writes about the newspaper industry’s complaints about Google:
Robert Thomson, the top editor of the Wall Street Journal, denounced websites like Google as “tapeworms.” His boss, Rupert Murdoch, said that big newspapers do not have to let Google “steal our copyrights.” The AP has threatened to take legal action against Google and others that use the work of news organizations without obtaining permission and sharing a “fair” portion of revenue. But what’s fair will be hard to prove.
First of all, Google is not stealing anyone’s copyrights; quoting the headline and a small bit of text to indicate what various news organizations are reporting about is clearly covered by the fair use exemption to copyright laws.
But Google, rather than insisting on the inherent right that we all have to quote minor amounts of copyrighted material, allows news outlets to opt out of Google News by adding a simple line of code to their websites. Dowd’s piece cites Google CEO Eric Schmidt pointing out that “newspapers could opt out of giving their content to Google free.” Apparently they must think they get more from Google linking to them than from Google not linking from them.
So if Google has a right to quote the newspapers’ material, and the newspapers see such quotation as beneficial to themselves, why should Google volunteer to write big checks to the newspapers? Well, because the papers would like to get free money. And who wouldn’t?