Murdoch's Google gambit

John C. Tanner
11 Nov 2009

Say what you will about Rupert Murdoch and News Corp, but the man knows how to generate headlines. The news sites and blogs have been abuzz over his latest promise to remove News content from Google’s search engines.

The desire to put up a paywall is understandable – News Corp isn’t the only media company unhappy with the ad-subsidized model. Associated Press chief executive Tom Curley – who shares Murdoch’s feeling about aggregators – is also looking at a pay model, as is the New York Times (again).

But Murdoch’s obsession with Google and other search engines and aggregators as “copyright thieves” stealing News Corp content seems over the top (his own company’s blatant use of aggregators notwithstanding) and almost desperately out of touch with the 21st century.

True, Murdoch has said this before. And while search engines and aggregators have always claimed that they’re exempt from copyright infringement claims under the “fair use” doctrine, that hasn’t really been put to the test in court , and Murdoch told Sky News he was reasonably confident that the courts will ultimately bar fair use altogether.

But so far, there seems to be very little evidence to support Murdoch’s assertion that he’s better off without Google and other aggregators.

Murdoch has acknowledged that Google drives a certain amount of traffic to News Corp-owned sites like Wall Street Journal, but claims he’d rather have fewer regular paying subscribers, and that in any case, the extra traffic is “marginal”.

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