Search Engines and Newspapers’ Websites

You may remember the Belgian newspapers’ lawsuit to prevent Google from linking to their sites, or from running short extracts from their sites in a Google News aggregation – a lawsuit that (if I recall correctly) the papers succeeded in, then found that they had a lot less traffic on their sites, so they made an arrangement with Google. It appeared that they really had intended to dip their ladles into Google’s revenue stream. It’s not clear how well they succeeded.

German newspapers seem to be taking a different route but probably to the same intended destination. They have apparently persuaded the German parliament to allow them to charge royalties to search engines that link to their stories.

Once the search engines block their sites from their searches, won’t the newspapers get less revenue from their own sites, for missed advertising or for other reasons?

One sees the temptation for government in this line of the story, though: ‘Other European countries …were interested in following Germany’s initiative because of the potential tax revenues these countries would earn from the proposed royalty fees.’ Not to mention that the newspaper publishers are no doubt better connected to legislators in those countries than are the owners of search engines.

Is this likely to be a success, from the point of view of the newspapers? Is it a way of preserving value in the Internet era? Will it be a lucrative source of tax revenue for the governments of the territories where the newspapers publish?


  1. David Collier-Brown

    Very early in the history of the ‘net (actually before the web), a proposal for “hypertext” was made by Ted Nelson, in his 1974 book Computer Lib / Dream Machines.

    One of the concepts discussed was transclusion, in which a portion of one documented was quoted in another, via a link which pointed to the beginning and end of the text in the first document,.

    What is important about this is that the intention was that the originator could put a price on large quotations and extracts, and so be paid by people who wished to do more than quote a snippit.

    This is arbitrarily hard to do with html, and so has encouraged brief quotations and wholesale unpaid copying.


  2. This is but another story of balancing the mechanisms for maximizing revenue and revenue streams. The spoils are being fought over like dogs over raw meat. Nothing at all about the social element of making accessible to society of socially generated goods and services. Or to put it another way by others: a hermit does not need a language and has no need to communicate.