A prominent journalist wants to bail out Ireland’s newspaper industry with a pot of Google gold.
Conor Brady, a former editor of the Irish Times, called on government officials in Dublin to negotiate a deal similar to the one that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) reached with the French government in February. In that deal, as the Guardian reported, the Mountain View, Calif., tech giant agreed to set up a €60 million fund to finance innovations that will help France’s struggling newspaper sector get back on its feet.
The agreement with France came following a contentious court battle in which newspaper industries in France, Italy and Germany tried to force Google to pay licensing fees to publishers for news snippets that appear in its search results. Google had threatened to stop indexing European publishers from its Google News service if it were forced to pay. As a compromise, Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, and French President François Hollande signed a deal on Feb. 1 to set up the innovation fund, which Google called a “happy conclusion.” Lawmakers in Italy and Germany are reportedly considering similar deals.
Brady thinks Ireland should have a piece of the action, too. Speaking to the Press Council of Ireland on Monday, he urged the country’s minister of communications, Pat Rabbitte, to consider a similar initiative, the Irish Times’ Laura Slattery reported. The suggestion came despite the fact that Ireland’s newspaper industry was not involved in the original copyright battle with Google.
European publishers have long considered Google’s practice of displaying headlines and snippets of news content a form of copyright infringement. In 2009, the UK newspaper division of News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWSA) blocked Google from indexing the content of The Times and the Sunday Times of London. News Corp. boss Rupert Murdoch famously referred to the search giant as a “parasite” and “content kleptomaniac.” Last year, however, after the Times saw a significant drop in readership, he had a change of heart, and allowed the newspapers back on Google News.
Meanwhile, the organization that oversees Europe’s larger publishing industry has said it is unhappy with the deal between Google and the French government. The European Publishers Council, whose members represents publishers in 14 countries, issued a statement in February saying it did not go far enough. “The type of deal arranged between Google and a group of French publishers does not address the continuing problem of unauthorised reuse and monetisation of content, and so does not provide the online press with the financial certainty or mechanisms for legal redress which it needs to build sustainable business models and ensure its continued investment in high-quality content,” said Angela Mills Wade, EPC’s executive director.
Throughout the ordeal, Google has maintained that its Google News service is a benefit to publishers, sending them countless page views and boosting their digital advertising revenue.
In addition to calling for Google’s help on Monday, Brady said Irish newspaper publishers need to consider more creative ways to help their bottom lines, including sponsored content and funding from philanthropic sources. He lamented the debt-ridden state of Ireland’s print media, although he said he believed it was making progress. Brady left the Irish Times in 2002.