Google's competing policies on paying for access to news content - The UpStream

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Google's competing policies on paying for access to news content

posted Sunday Jan 24, 2021 by Scott Ertz

Google's competing policies on paying for access to news content

For many years, Google has had a complicated relationship with data access. The company generally believes that all data should be available to them in order to present the most complete search results. However, they have also gotten directly involved in the content aggregation and display space, often taking content from other companies and displaying it without ever requiring the user to visit the site from which the data came. Without that visit to the site, the companies cannot generate revenue, meaning creating the content is less valuable.

While the most public disagreement came from Yelp, the biggest disagreement has certainly been over news. In the EU, a number of fees have been created specifically targeting Google, commonly known as a Google Tax. One was created by Spain, which wanted Google to pay to index each news article in its systems from publishers in the country. As a result, Google shut down news in Spain. While the service has since been returned, the battle over the way news and Google work together has never stopped.

Two major legal challenges have been going on recently across the globe - one in Australia and one in France. While both are surrounding Google paying for access to news content, the company's response has been different to each.

In Australia, regulators are considering forcing Google to pay news sites for the privilege to link to their content. Obviously, this is fundamentally against the concept of the web, as expressed by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee. He said of the move,

To my knowledge, there is no current example of legally requiring payments for links to other content. The ability to link freely - meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees - is fundamental to how the Web operates.

The idea of forcing a company to pay to link to a page is patently insane. Google agrees with the assessment, announcing that, if the law is passed, the company would shut its search engine down entirely within the country. This seems like a reasonable response to Australia trying to break the basic framework of the web. Their stance could be challenged, however, because the company has also announced that it has agreed to a framework within France to pay for access to news content within the country.

The big difference here is that, rather than paying for the ability to even link to an article, France wants Google to pay for the ability to index the content. While this is not necessarily a much better scenario, it is very different. The company could, potentially, still offer links to the content without indexing or displaying any of the article itself. In Google's defense, they did shut down the news snippets on its site for French publishers until an agreement was reached.

All of this comes back down to a topic that Avram Piltch, host of Piltch Point and Editor-in-Chief of Tom's Hardware, has raised repeatedly - the majority of news site traffic comes from Google. By punishing Google for indexing or linking to news content, publishers are only punishing themselves. Discoverability is harder today than ever due to increased competition, and Google is still the best way to raise that discoverability.

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