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Google Agrees to Pay for Associated Press Content

In a move the builds another link in the bridge between new and traditional media, Google and the Associated Press have entered into a content agreement for stories and photographs.

“The license in this agreement provides for new uses of original AP content for features and products we will introduce in the future,” said Google spokesperson Sonya Boralv.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

AP had reportedly been uncomfortable with Google’s practice of aggregating and displaying the news wire’s content on its Web site with no payment to AP. Now, Google appears to be willing to pay for the content as part of a new product planned for Google News.

Google’s Copyright Woes

At the same time, Google is not admitting it has done anything wrong. The company has long held that it does not owe anything to anyone for pointing out news stories and photographs posted on other Web sites. Google attorneys claim “fair use” protections under copyright law.

The Associated Press did not agree. Neither did Paris-based news agency Agence-France Press (AFP). While Google’s agreement with the 160-year old news wire closes the door on its copyright dispute between the AP, the company still faces a lawsuit from AFP.

The AFP suit against the Internet search giant alleges that Google News is infringing its copyrights. The AFP is seeking US$17.5 million in damages. Google’s deal with the AP could bode well for the French news agency if courts view it as a subtle admission of guilt.

“If the AFP wins its suit, everyone would have to follow suit and settle. But it’s going to take years. You’d have appeals. It’s an issue that could open up a Pandora’s box of news agencies saying you can’t point out content on other sites,” Marc Pado, an analyst with Cantor Fitzgerald, told TechNewsWorld. “I don’t see that happening.”

Google Pays the Piper

Google has not moved to settle with the AFP, but Boralv expressed Google’s view that content providers and publishers should be fairly compensated for their work so they can continue producing high-quality information.

“We are always working on new ways to help users find the information they are looking for, and our business agreement with the Associated Press is one example of that,” she said.

Boralv made it clear that the AP deal is not the first where Google has paid media for content. The company has revenue-sharing agreements in place with broadcasters and book publishers to resell copyrighted material on the site as well.

David and Goliath

Google and the AP did not specify whether the search company is paying the news wire a flat fee or a commission based on traffic. Either way, Google is now playing by the same rules the AP has set in place for Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL, which have been paying for AP content for years.

From the AP’s perspective, Google can afford to ante up. The AP, a not-for-profit organization owned by U.S. news companies, posted revenues of $654 million last year. By contrast, the publicly-traded search company reported $6.1 billion in revenue in 2005 and expects to exceed $9 billion in 2006.

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