Google Inc. took another step Friday in its continued attempts to improve its relationships with wire services, when it announced a program to host full articles from news agencies on Google News pages.
Google News, a site in which Google aggregates links to articles published on news outlets' Web sites, is generally valued by publishers who make money from online advertising and as such benefit from the traffic Google News sends to their sites.
But Google News has been a tougher sell for wire services, which generally make money by licensing their content to newspapers and magazines, and not by attracting readers to their own Web sites.
Agence France Presse (AFP), one of the world's largest wire services, sued Google for alleged copyright infringement on the News site. Although never publicly acknowledged, it's widely believed that the Associated Press threatened to file a similar lawsuit.
Although Google maintains that running hyperlinked headlines, text snippets and thumbnail images from news outlets in Google News is protected by the fair use principle, it eventually settled with AFP and signed a licensing agreement with it, as well as with AP.
Friday's announcement appears to be the first concrete result of those licensing agreements, although the AP deal is now more than a year old. The AFP settlement and agreement were announced in April.
Now, if they want, people will be able to read the original articles from AP, AFP, the U.K. Press Association and the Canadian Press in Google News pages. Google also entered into licensing agreements with the U.K. and Canadian wire services.
Previously, because wire services' Web sites typically feature either a small sample or none of their stories, the way to read their articles was go to the sites of their syndication clients, such as newspapers.
The new feature unveiled Friday is called "duplicate detection," which lets Google News identify the original source of a story that may appear in tens or hundreds of news outlet Web sites. If the source story is from one of the four news service agencies that Google has licensing agreements with, Google will display the story on a page that it hosts.
But the feature will benefit all types of news outlets, not just wire services. For example, if a New York Times story gets syndicated, Google News will know that it originally came from this newspaper.
For such outlets that have their own public Web sites, "duplicate detection" will simply let users click over to their sites, which is the traditional Google News model.
Removing duplicated articles opens up more room on Google News, leading to a better user experience, said Josh Cohen, Google News business product manager.
"Our goal with what we're launching today is to provide the best experience for our users and help our partners get credit for their content," he said.
Asked whether the hosting of full articles on Google News will weaken the fair-use protection claim, Cohen said that it will not. "We respect copyright laws. When we go beyond fair use, we enter into licensing agreements," he said.
The "duplicate detection" feature is already operational on the site, he said.