If you are in the frontline you will get the most bullets. That is how Google's troubles with newspapers worldwide can be explained. Google had only recently reached an agreement with Associated Press to use the latter's content and photos. The latest to hit the headlines is the case with Belgian publishers.
The case involves two Belgian groups, Sofam for photographers and Scam for journalists. The press association accused Google of stealing content and photos from Belgian online newspapers. The theft relates to the headline and excerpts that Google uses on Google news for reference. What the newspapers have overlooked is that Google doesn't appropriate the content or publish it in its own name. These are used only as news references that browsers read through and click to reach the original post on the newspaper's website. It's similar to the desciption and title used in display of search results.
Thus newspapers actually benefit by getting traffic without any effort. Google has lately been avoiding court cases and reaching out of court settlements. Google's agreement with Sofam and Scam is in keepping with that trend only. Whether Google will be paying the groups for use of their content is unknown. But ain't Google paying Associated Press for similar use of material?
Google had recently lost a case in Belgium against Copiepresse in a copyright material. Though the case is being reheard, Google has removed links to all the 17 newspapers involved in the lawsuit. Google clarified by saying that:
Google News is no different than Google web search in this regard: We only ever show the headlines and a bit of text. If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the newspaper’s website. And if a newspaper does not want to be part of Google News we remove their content from our index –- all they have to do is ask.
With Google reaching an agreement with the journalists (Scam and Sofam), the company can very well afford that too. Google has also been facing problems with publishers in Norway and Microsoft has voluntarily withdrawn Belgian content from its index.
The clashes over local content are more more ironical given that newspapers are coming together with search engines for local ads.