AFP Settles with Google, Becomes ‘Licensor’

Previously Google and AP struck a licensing deal. Now Agence France-Presse (AFP) has apparently become a second licensor. AFP sued Google for copyright infringement and this deal ends that litigation:

Agence France-Presse and Google signed a licensing agreement Friday giving the search engine the right to post AFP news and photos and settling a lawsuit filed by AFP two years ago.

A joint statement by the companies said the accord allows the Internet giant to post AFP content on Google News and other services. Details of the pact were not made public.

The deal “will enable the use of AFP’s newswire content in innovative, new ways that will dramatically improve the way users experience newswire content on the Internet,” the statement said.

A joint statement by the companies said the accord allows the Internet giant to post AFP content on Google News and other services. Details of the pact were not made public.

The deal “will enable the use of AFP’s newswire content in innovative, new ways that will dramatically improve the way users experience newswire content on the Internet,” the statement said.

While terms aren’t disclosed, it would appear that Google is paying AFP (either via rev share or fees or both). Danny Sullivan has a lengthy discussion of the background and related cases for those interested.

One reason these cases are interesting is because their issues go to the heart of what Google and others are doing online: aggregating content from third parties, for “free,” and building businesses around that content (Oodle is another one [of many] in a similar situation). (See also, Chris Sherman’s post re Tribune’s soon-to-be owner Sam Zell’s comments.)

In most cases sites can decline to be crawled and so voluntary arrangements have worked. And in most cases the crawled sites and publishers want the traffic. But there have been suits to stop crawling. Among them, ShopLocal sued now defunct Cairo and essentially shut that business down (or more precisely it shut down not long after the settlement). Nothing has gotten to the level of precedent however.

The guiding law in the US still appears to be Feist v. Rural Telephone (but I’m no longer a lawyer tracking this stuff so my knowledge is incomplete.) Feist essentially holds that “factual” information cannot be protected. That decision directly led to the creation of the “independent” yellow pages industry and the databases that now form the core of most local search content online.

There’s a much longer discussion about this decision applied in practice, however.

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Related: Utah’s attempt at trademark keyword regulation will undoubtedly be struck down as violating “interstate commerce.” This is a fascinating microcosm of the large issue: who gets to make law for the Internet when users, advertisers and content cross borders so easily?

There might be a way in which this could be upheld if it is limited exclusively to Utah based companies or companies doing business in Utah. But even then the ambiguity and enforcement challenges probably render it void.


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