Google News and other news search engines are 'content kleptomaniacs', said Rupert Murdoch in 2009 and he pulled his newspapers from the Google search results in 2010. However in September this year he changed his position and decided that the news snippets should reappear. Of course, traffic was going down and that means a loss of income. Now new ideas are emerging at the headquarters of cash strapped newspapers. Couldn't we start taxing Google and the others for publishing our content by creating an extension of the copyright, is the musing of media CEO's? Simply by creating a collecting society for Google tax, newspapers could join forces in the their fight against the digital thugs. Published at Memeburn: http://memeburn.com/2012/11/should-newspapers-be-able-to-tax-google-news/
At the end of this month German politicians in the Bundestag will discuss a first draft of an extension of the copyright, called the ancillary copyright bill. The revenue of this Google tax could stop the drop in revenue of the German newspaper industry. The revenue dropped from 2000-2009 by 20% to 11 bill Euro. Critics of the proposal argue that this will not solve the financial problems of the newspaper industry. It is like 'asking a fine dining guide to pay for the privilege of listing a restaurant' says Jimmy Schulz, a Free Democrat.
Germany is not alone; France is considering steps in the same direction. The French president François Hollande, demanded from Google chairman Eric Schmidt compensation for the French newspapers, otherwise France will draft an extension the copyright law like Germany. The problem is of course that the French newspaper industry is far from profitable despite more than 1.2 bill of government subsidies. When this European tandem takes the lead, others will follow. If Italy and Austria stop hesitating to jump on the copyright bandwagon, then we are not far away from a 'harmonization' of the copyright into a European copyright. An issue that is already on the 'Digital Agenda for Europe' of Neelie Kroes, the vice president of the European Commission.
The Google tax will for the moment stay a European affair, because in other parts of the world comparable initiative are not present. In the US for example publishing news snippets qualifies as 'fair use', and is not considered to be an infringement of the copyright. In South Africa newspaper sales and circulation is dropping, but the situation is not as catastrophic as in Europe. Secondly it seems that South African newspapers are more focusing on the on line presence, hoping to get more readers from their digital editions.
The argument that Google dissuades readers from clicking through to the newspapers websites is not very solid in the light of the facts. Google argues that it directs 4 billion clicks monthly to the newspapers sites, and about three billion will actually read the complete article. Therefore newspapers will not block Google from indexing their news; as Murdoch already understood: if traffic falls the revenue of on line advertisements will drop. And this will be exactly the consequence of a Google tax too, because when this ancillary copyright is accepted, Google will remove the newspapers' pages, (to avoid taxation), with the same result. So the emerging business model is not taxing Google, but creating revenue from the content. It would be wise for SA newspapers when considering their on line presence, to think about a metered paywall (a few articles for free, but payment is required for more). The Economist and the New York Times for example are using it successfully. Users are now more willing to pay per article, or consider a digital subscription the newspaper. And Google will continue to direct users to their stories.