Gavin O’Reilly calls for Google to respect copyright

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The President of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, Gavin O’Reilly, has called on Google to respect the principle of copyright and accept a new protocol on the way it reproduces content.

O’Reilly, who is also the chief executive officer of Independent News & Media, owners of The Independent, said that the search engine needed to understand that copyright law was established 300 years ago and could not simply be abandoned. “Copyright is not some intellectual abstract – it is the law – and I’d suggest that Google needs to start to work in good faith to find solutions that enshrine copyright, not abuse it,” he told an audience in Hyderabad, India.

Addressing the World Newspaper Congress, O’Reilly said the issue was critical to the survival of news content providers. “Media business models – almost without exception – are dependent on copyright; they always have been and always will be.”

He called on Google to accept the Automated Content Access Protocol, and other technology tools which would give publishers greater protection against copyright infringement. “Perhaps now is the time for Google and others to stop protesting and time for Google to start working constructively and openly with publishers.”

The comments are part of a global debate on the future of the news media and follow repeated criticisms of Google by Rupert Murdoch and senior executives within his News Corporation publishing empire. Murdoch has said that his British newspapers will start charging for their online content in the spring but there is concern within News Corp that Google represents a threat to that strategy. Earlier this week, in an apparent response to the criticisms it is facing, Google announced the introduction of limits on searches that allowed free access to news sites that otherwise require users to pay a subscription.

In response to O’Reilly’s comments, David Drummond, Google senior vice president and chief legal counsel, told the conference that the search engine was willing to engage with newspaper companies but denied it was breaching copyright laws. “Work with us to build bigger audiences and engage them deeply. It won’t be all free or all paid for. It will be a combination of both,” he said. “Fair use of content, including content aggregation is not violative of copyright enactments,”

O’Reilly admitted that news publishers “haven’t made copyright work properly on the web” but he said that text content was being treated differently from online video. “The copyright of audio-visual content is rarely ever questioned on the web now,” he said. “Yet, somehow when it comes to the written word from us news publishers, the inherent logic of copyright gets sidelined.”

Such written content, he argued, was often costly to produce. “Some things, including... high quality in-depth news, are bloody expensive, and those who research, write and shape the news have a not unreasonable expectation of just reward.”

Google, other aggregators such as Yahoo! and “the countless thousands of bots and spiders that trawl through cyberspace”, should not assume that “our content is simply their content”, he said.

“I am not advocating charity here... we publishers don’t need hand outs or crumbs from Google’s table. What we want is a more rigorous and unambiguous acceptance on copyright, an acknowledgement of our right to choose our own business model.”