Newspaper Group Questions Aggregation of News Content

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The World Association of Newspapers created a task force to explore ways to challenge how search engines aggregate news content, the organization said yesterday.


The group will examine whether new policies need to be drafted to formalize the commercial relationship between publishers and the search engines and content aggregators, which have built their business models largely on taking content for free.


The Paris-based association also will look into whether to take collective action, either at a national or international level, together with questions regarding copyright enforcement and brand infringement.


Google, Yahoo and other engines have created sites that post headlines, photos and excerpts of articles from thousands of news sources, linking back to the publishers' own site. However, Google News does not currently carry advertising.


WAN president Gavin O'Reilly called the process the "Napsterisation" of content, after that company's well-publicized conflict with the music industry.


"The search engines are increasingly aiming their strategic efforts at traditional content originators and aggregators like newspaper publishers. The irony is that these search engines exist, largely, because of the traditional news and content aggregators and profit at their expense," O'Reilly, who chairs the task force, said in a statement. "Google, Yahoo and other search engines are not some new breed of social benefactors of information -- they are assuredly commercial, very-much-for-profit organizations and not the new Robin Hoods."


Last year, Agence France-Presse sued Google, alleging that its Google News site carries its photographs, news headlines and stories without permission.


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