Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Google to publishers: We're not evil or illegal

After executives from newspapers and wire services have renewed their threats against online news aggregators, Google's legal team fires back.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

A day after the editor of The Wall Street Journal referred to online news aggregators--particularly Google and its Google News product--as "parasites or tech tapeworms," and the chairman of the Associated Press announced an initiative to protect print media content from infringing use online, Google has fired back in a blog.

The gist of Tuesday's blog post, penned by Google associate general counsel Alexander Macgillivray: don't point fingers at us.

"We show snippets and links under the doctrine of fair use enshrined in the United States Copyright Act," he wrote. "Even though the Copyright Act does not grant a copyright owner a veto over such uses, it is our policy to allow any rightsholder, in this case newspaper or wire service, to remove their content from our index--all they have to do is ask us or implement simple technical standards."

As for the AP, Macgillivray noted that Google already pays the wire service to reprint its articles and photographs. A dispute several years ago led to this agreement.

Of course, Google News is far from the only aggregator out there. Digg, Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post are also big players. But Google is unquestionably at the top.

For the past few years, as many mainstream media outlets (particularly on the print side) began to lose revenue, influence, and readership, some of them had a pretty clear message: blame Google. At the same time, Viacom still has a billion-dollar lawsuit against Google's YouTube over pirated video content. And much of the publishing industry is far from signing on to Google's book digitization initiative.

With struggling newspapers in a panic over whether offering content online for free might not have been such a good idea in the first place, Google--the ultimate source of free content--is an even easier target.

But Google says it's part of the solution, not the problem, and insists that its search and aggregation products only serve to help drive traffic to online news sites.

"Users like me are sent from different Google sites to newspaper websites at a rate of more than a billion clicks per month," Macgillivray said in his post. "These clicks go to news publishers large and small, domestic and international--day and night."