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Daily Telegraph rattles legal sabre at Google

Battle of Belgium bound for Blighty?

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The editor of The Daily Telegraph has hinted that the paper could be on a legal collision course with Google and Yahoo! over the aggregators' use of its content.

Newspaper industry watcher Roy Greenslade reports that speaking at the Ifra newsroom conference in Paris last week, Telegraph editor Will Lewis said:

Our ability to protect content is under consistent attack from those such as Google and Yahoo! who wish to access it for free. These companies are seeking to build a business model on the back of our own investment without recognition. All media companies need to be on guard for this. Success in the digital age, as we have seen in our own company, is going to require massive investment...[this needs] effective legal protection for our content, in such a way that allows us to invest for the future.

Media owners are becoming increasingly bold in their attacks on aggregators, and particularly Google, which they accuse of bagging huge advertising revenues on the back of zero investment in content. Last week it reported first quarter revenues of $3.6bn, way ahead of expectations.

Angered by YouTube, execs at entertainment giant Viacom are engaged in a $1bn war of words with Mountain View, and Belgian newspaper group Copiepress scored a humiliating victory, forcing the removal of content from Google News.

Google fought that case to the bitter end, and chose to submit itself to a revenue carve-up in a similar dispute with French news agency AFP, rather than face court in the US. A high profile UK court challenge would presumably be similarly distasteful to Google's doyens, who prefer the image of plucky young web success the company maintains in the mainstream.

Google has said that republishing snippets of news reports via Google News is fair use, and that if owners ask it will deindex them. Opponents argue that Google has a de facto monopoly on search, and so controls the gateway to internet news, and should therefore be compelled to share the huge profits it draws for relatively little effort. ®

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