Google is not your sugar daddy

by Mathew on February 3, 2009 · 9 comments

Variations on the “Google should pay me for X” theme have been around for some time now, and the precipitous decline of content-related industries — among them book publishing, newspaper printing and music distribution, to name just a few — has only accelerated the number and frequency of these complaints. Everyone from the World Association of Newspapers to the American Authors Association seems convinced that the Internet owes them a living, and that Google (being synonymous with the Internet the way it is for so many) is the best one to settle the bill, especially since it has billions of dollars just lying around, like Scrooge McDuck. Let’s call this the “Google as sugar daddy” argument.

But why should Google pay? The main reason seems to be: Because it can. Any additional rationale comes off as an afterthought, and one that in most cases, doesn’t hold water.

The latest addition to this sad pantheon is an opinion piece by Peter Osnos, a former journalist turned book publisher who writes for an outfit called the Century Foundation. He has posted on The Daily Beast a shorter version of a piece he wrote for the Century Foundation. The most recent one is called “Will Google Save The News?” but the earlier piece is much more blunt, entitled simply “Make Google Pay.” Osnos’s argument seems to be: Google paid book publishers for the right to scan their books, therefore Google should pay newspapers as well, since their content is used without their permission in Google News. Presto! Industry rescued. As he puts it:

“The major point is that Google has now conceded, with a very large payment, that information is not free. This leads to an obvious, critical question: Why aren’t newspapers and news magazines demanding payment for use of their stories on Google and other search engines? Why are they not getting a significant slice of the advertising revenues generated by use of their stories via Google?”

This argument is so full of holes that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

(read the rest of this post at GigaOm)

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