In an interview with SkyNews Australia, Rupert Murdoch continued to insist that Google (and other search engines) are “stealing” his content and that newspapers should never have “given away” their content for free. And he hinted that News Corp. would soon block search engines from indexing their web sites and would successfully challenge the “fair use” of links in court.
Like many other executives in the newspaper business, Murdoch trots out the claim that readers have always “paid” for their news by purchasing a newspaper. This is false; readers pay for the convenience of having the content delivered — advertisers have footed the bill for content creation. Subscription fees don’t cover the cost of printing and distribution! How long are these men going to be allowed to make such false claims? When will reporters act like something other than stenographers?
Murdoch asserts that search engines like Google, Microsoft and Ask.com “steal our stories – they just take them.” This claim suggests a wholesale copy-and-paste, not a headline, link and sentence or two. Murdoch agrees that search engines drive traffic, “but what’s the point of someone who comes occasionally,” he continues. “We’d rather have fewer people coming to our website, but paying.”
Murdoch is extremely dismissive of search traffic, so why is it that only about a third of the stories on the WSJ home page today were blocked by a paywall? Could it be that “you can’t charge for exclusives that will just be repeated elsewhere” or maybe “don’t charge for the most popular content on your site”? Those observations, by the way, came from Alan Murray, executive editor of the WSJ, at a Neiman Labs talk in April.
The only content that you can charge for is content that can’t be found elsewhere, content on which you hold a monopoly, in other words. That’s why I think Murdoch is bluffing, although I’ve no idea why he’s bluffing.
The SkyNews reporter asked why NewsCorp hasn’t blocked search engines with something as simple as a robots.txt file. Danny Sullivan made this point last month, when Wall Street Journal managing editor Robert Thomson made similar claims at an east coast conference.
“I think we will, but that’s when we start charging,” Murdoch responded.
He then went on to describe the quasi-wall in place at the Wall Street Journal, but according to Staci Kramer at PaidContent, he doesn’t understand how the WSJ and Google work. (Kramer’s description matches my experience with WSJ links off of GoogleNews. Of the top 36 stories/videos on today’s home page, only 12 were pay-to-view. Of the three of these that I found on Google News, I could read the entire story via the RSS feed link.)
The BBC is a “scandal,” he says, accusing the BBC of “stealing” content from newspapers. “We’ll be suing them for copyright.” He compared the BBC’s alleged copyright infringement with uploading a TV show to YouTube. Earlier (~4:45), he asserted that “we believe [the doctrine of fair use] can be challenged in the courts and barred all together.” Claims like these suggest that the man is demented, if he indeed believes the words coming out of his mouth.
In an abrupt reversal of his diatribe about intellectual property theft amongst search engines — and contrary to the rhetoric of many in the entertainment business — Murdoch said he believed the piracy is under control in most countries. Why, then, would there be a need for a “three strikes” copyright law (he lauded the new French law) and why would he suggest it as a world standard? (Was anyone from NewsCorp on the secret U.S. copyright team?)
The second half of the interview focuses on FOX News and political reporting in the U.S. You are warned.