Last week we reported that Agence France Press (AFP) had filed a $17.5 million court suit against Google for providing AFP photographs, news headlines or story leads in the Google News service without permission (see report below).
We noted that AFP could have prevented Google's robot spiders accessing their content themselves and making it a condition of their customer contracts. We also noted that AFP is likely a free user of Google and other search engine services, without which the web would be a shadow of what it is today.
To add fuel to the fire, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, the French Minister for Culture and Communication, lamented the process of “omnigooglisation,” in reaction to Google's plans to offer online access to some 15 million books and files in five of the English-speaking world’s most prestigious libraries. President Chirac arranged a meeting at the Elysée Palace with Donnedieu de Vabres and the President of the National Library of France (BNF) Jean-Noel Jeanneney and requested ed them “to analyse the conditions under which the collections of the great libraries in France and Europe could be put more widely and more rapidly on the internet”.
In an article in the Le Monde newspaper last November, Jeanneney said that the Google project, with its 4.5 billion pages of text, will be a great facility for researchers and a long-awaited chance for poor nations to get access to global learning. “The real issue is elsewhere. And it is immense. It is confirmation of the risk of a crushing American domination in the definition of how future generations conceive the world,” he said.
Google shot back against AFP this week and began taking down links to AFP stories and some of AFP's 600 customers began to see how foolish AFP had been.
The US online service Political Gateway, a customer of AFP, reported that Topix.net, a news aggregation system, which was recently acquired by 3 major US newspaper groups, had also ceased indexing AFP headlines.
On its site Political Gateway says:
Today, a search on Topix shows no AFP news headlines for the day. All are one day old. Apparently, fearing a 17 million dollar lawsuit, they have dropped news sites also.
AFP 'had' over 600 online clients last week using their news content. What has happened since then is a mystery. AFP will not respond, nor will Google or Topix.net about it.
For Political Gateway, an AFP subscriber, being blacklisted by two major players is devastating. Worse, the owner Bob Hoffman, can expect the other news aggregators to not be far behind.
Whether AFP, Google, or Topix is wrong or right is not the issue. While the big boys fight over terms and copyrights, sites like Political Gateway are being severely financially damaged.
The AFP management who have brought this self-inflicted injury on their organization, should be in some other line of business or more accurately none. In today's digital world, newspaper executives blinded by the fear of "crushing American domination," may contribute more to the world by seeking employment in French libraries.
Report on AFP's lawsuit:
Following several legal actions by French companies against search engine Google, it's reported that the news agency Agence France Press (AFP) is claiming damages of at least $17.5 million and a court order barring Google News from displaying AFP photographs, news headlines or story leads, according to a suit filed last Thursday in a US District Court.
True to form for the senior executives of many news organizations, when they create the news, it is conveniently viewed as not news. So AFP has refused to comment. It has reported as follows:
Agence France-Presse has sued Google Inc. for copyright infringement, alleging that the Internet search engine included AFP headlines, news summaries and photographs published without permission. In a suit filed in a Washington court, AFP sought damages and interest of at least $17.5 million (€13.1 million) and an interdiction on the publication of its text and photos without prior agreement.
In Paris, the AFP management declined comment.
AFP, which has its headquarters in Paris and bureaus around the world, is one of the major global news agencies, and supplies its news services to various kinds of media, including electronic. It has 600 online clients.
Last week, a court in Versailles, France, ruled that a lower court's decision in favor of travel companies Luteciel SARL and Viaticum SA should stand. Google France SARL had been ordered to pay €75,000 (US$100,000) in fines and legal costs for abuse of two phrases trademarked by the companies. In February, luxury goods group LVMH Moët Hennessy's Louis Vuitton unit won a similar case against Google when a Paris court ruled that Google infringed the trademark by allowing its competitors to use it in Google's text advertising. In December, a French court ruled that Google must refrain from using the trademarks of European resort chain Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts to trigger keyword ads.
While trademark rights are important, the actions against a search engine such as Google are classic examples of wanting to have your cake and eat it.
In AFP's case, it can ensure that Google does not index its main site by including the relevent code on its servers. Clients could also be required to put similar code on their sites.
What's the betting that all these companies who have taken action against Google, gladly take advantage of the free search services provided by Google?