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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Google: Content Owners Come A' Callin'

Late word is out that Google has made an agreement to pay that Associated Press for its content. Neither side gave out dollar amounts, but the Agence France Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million. It claims that when Google points to stories by the news agency, it is going beyond the "fair use" doctrine in copyright law.

One thing is vitually certain. Between the AP deal and the french news agency suit, a lot of content providers will knock on Google's door. Each is going to want a deal at least as fair as the one with the Associated Press. If nothing comes of the entreaties, Google can expect to spend more time in court.

Google points to hundreds, if not thousands of news sites. Put the term "Detroit" into Google News and the first page brings back seven sources of news and photos. Fair use? Maybe.

With $721 million in net profit in the June quarter, Google will not go hungry paying a few content providers. But, if the stone in the water created ripples, the numbers (if the French news service suit proves to have merit) could rise into the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It may not be probable today, but it is possible.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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