Media buyer claims News Corp preparing to sue Google, Yahoo over news services

Duncan Riley

Harold Mitchell, the founder of one of Australia's largest advertising groups and a man connected to News Corp locally, said in a radio interview Thursday (local time) that News Corp. is preparing to sue Google and Yahoo to stop both from linking to, and quoting News Corp content.

The claim was made as part of a piece on News Corp's financial results played on ABC News Radio (I heard it at 3:35pm AEST, but it was probably played throughout the day.) There's no official transcript available, so the following is taken direct from the audio, and is as accurate as I could type listening to a replay later.

Peter Ryan (ABC Business Editor): Peter Mitchell, chairman of media buying group Mitchell Communications, says that Rupert Murdoch could be in for the fight of his life. Mitchell: Rupert Murdoch has now accepted the challenge of charging people for content, very difficult because for more than a decade its been given away free. Ryan: Harold Mitchell says that News Corporation is already preparing a legal battle to prevent Google and Yahoo from taking news material and using it free of charge. Mitchell: the fight is on two fronts. One is to stop people like Google and organizations like Google from simply taking the information and making it available from inside their product. And the second thing is to get the product in such a way that subscribers are prepared to pay. It's a fight that has to be won.

There's no way to confirm whether Mitchell was speculating or does actually have knowledge of pending legal action, although the language in the interview would suggest that he does have some knowledge of pending legal action.

I'm tending towards the latter: Mitchell is regarded as one of the most preeminent media commentators in this country, and he's not the sort of person who would offer flippant speculation in an interview like this.

The one, and main outstanding question is whether the said legal action would take place in Australia, and/or the United States as well. Australia doesn't have strong fair use provisions as is the case in the United States, so legal action in Australia would stand a better chance of success.

The stupidity though, as always, is that this conspiracy about Google and others stealing from the likes of News Corp is absurd when all it takes it one line in a robots.txt file to take that content out of Google and the rest within hours, if that's what News Corp. really wanted.