Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corp, recently landed on headlines when he said in an online interview that News Corp is planning to block Google from crawling into its web sites.
The interview, conducted by David Speer of major network Sky News Australia, discussed a wide range of topics, from the debate between free and paid to an evaluation of the performance of President Barack Obama. In the interview, Mr. Murdoch expressed disagreement over free access to information that should have been paid for in other sites.
Murdoch said, “I think we’ve been asleep.” He added, “It costs us a lot of money to put together good newspapers and good content. They’re very happy to pay for it when they buy a newspaper, and I think when they read it elsewhere they’re going to have to pay. Not huge sums. You’d be surprised how much can be done, how cheaply, into the average home.”
Other News Corp. executive have similarly declared against this form of “kleptomania” and “parasitism,” and have lobbied to prevent Google from showing their content in its many properties. In a nutshell, Mr. Murdoch has accused search engines of stealing their content. News Corp., however, has been silent about Murdoch’s views.
In the interview, Mr. Speers argued that search sites are claiming to help news outlets by directing the searchers to the site when they click on the search results. This, he said, makes the scheme symbiotic.
But Mr. Murdoch countered that the searchers are not immediately converted into loyal readers. “We’d rather have fewer people coming to our Web site by paying,” he added.
Mr. Speers raised another argument advanced by Google, which said Internet sites are free to choose whether or not they want to be appear in search engines. “You could simply refuse to be on it, so that when someone does to a search, your Web sites don’t come up. Why haven’t you done that?”
To which, Mr. Murdoch replied that he thinks News Corp. will explore that possibility. “We do it already, with The Wall Street Journal. We have a wall, but it’s not right to the ceiling. You can get the first paragraph of any story, but if you’re not a paying subscriber of WSJ.com, you get a paragraph of any story, but if you’re not a paying subscriber to WSJ.com, you get a paragraph and a subscription form.” At the moment, content in WSJ are organized by search engines and are feature for free in Google results. When searchers click on the link, they are directed to the article, and then directed to the pay wall after accessing a few articles.
According to Mr. Murdoch, News Corp. is a supporter of the fair-use doctrine. Under the fair-use doctrine, users may use copyrighted materials provided that the use is fair. Search results are traditionally covered by the definition of “fair use” but this remains to be decided upon by the courts.
Mr. Murdoch’s statements have drawn different reactions. Some have said they do not believe that News Corp. would give up the search traffic to restrict its contents. Others believe that News Corp. could do it if they want to. Techdirt even commented that taking out News Corp’s sites from Google search is a major step, which is “one right off the side of a big cliff.”
Entrepreneur Mark Cuban has expressed support for Mr. Murdoch’s remarks. According to Mr. Cuban, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter could reinstate the potential decrease in Google search traffic to News Corp.’s websites, as these do not prohibit the sharing of content.
As of press time, Google has not commented to directly address the remarks of Mr. Murdoch. The internet giant however stated that it believes its search engine and news pages are benefiting news organizations by directing web traffic to their own sites. It added that news organizations are allowed to take out their content from Google properties.