French AFP news service sues Google

The French news service Agence France Presses is suing Google for at least $17.5 million because the search engine allows AFP copyright pictures headlines and stories to appear via its Google News service. AFP is also demanding an injunction which bans Google from showing such material accord to papers filed at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Google News is an automated aggregate of news from around the web. Stories from many different sources – including PC Pro, Computer Shopper, Computer Buyer and Mac user – are automatically grouped together by subject so that a visitor can not only follow a breaking story but also get the angle from many different viewpoints.

While most news sources welcome the profile – and the additional traffic – that Google News gives them, others, like AFP who rely on subscriptions for their business model, do not want their content broadcast over the web.

AFP says that it had contacted Google and asked it not to reproduce AFP copyright material but the search engine had ignored such requests.

The problem for Google is that while it can simply not spider material from the AFP site itself, much of the agency’s content is reproduced by it’s clients. while these clients will normally give AFP a credit, it will be hard for Google’s newsbot to automatically identify and ignore all AFP material. A better approach for AFP might be to put a clause in its terms and conditions compelling websites to add the ‘noindex’ command to each page containing AFP content that tells newsbot to ignore it.

This is not the first time that Google has been sued by a content provider over indexed content. In 2002 the ‘Perfect 10’ web site which offers ‘adult’ images on subscription sued Google because the search engine was displaying material which was supposedly available to subscribers only. In that case, a US appeals court ruled that In 2002, a federal appeals court ruled that while Google could post ‘thumbnails’, displaying full-sized versions of the images would be an infringement of copyright.

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