News Corp.: Google News Lives Off 'Sweat Of Our Brow'
"Aggregators and Google News are, to us, the worst offenders," general counsel Lawrence Jacobs said today at a luncheon talk at Brooklyn Law School. "They make money by living off the sweat of our brow."
The refrain is familiar by now, yet makes no more sense now than the last dozen or so times we've heard it. If Google News is such a menace, all News Corp. has to do is communicate that it no longer wants its stories indexed.
Jacobs acknowledged as much, but said that News Corp. isn't willing to go that far. "No one, including us, is ready to pull that trigger," he said.
That's obviously because news companies know they get traffic from aggregators. Yet, while they want that traffic, they clearly also want cold hard cash from the sites that are sending them visitors. But the law doesn't necessarily entitle news publications to demand that sites pay licensing fees to excerpt brief snippets and headlines. This issue came up in a recent lawsuit by Gatehouse News against Boston.com, but the case was settled before the court issued a ruling.
There's no question that original reporting takes time and money. But facts are still facts; the people who dig them up don't own them. Allowing any news organization to claim a right to license sports scores, voting results, news of executive moves or other facts is hugely inconsistent with the free speech principles that protect the flow of information -- and, even more importantly, that allow news organizations to exist at all.