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How AFP killed an Online News Site by Suing Google

Political Gateway | March 23, 2005

Last Thursday AFP, a French based news service and the oldest news service in the world, sued Google, the biggest search engine in the world for copyright infringement. An amount around 17 million was asked for in damages. This story will give you an overview of the situation and the damage it has done.

AFP is saying Google presents AFP headlines and summaries on the search engine news aggregator. And that is more than ‘fair use’ and they need to ‘pay up’. Google has no ads on the news service and Google is just one of many news aggregators out there. What Google does is common practice on the web.

Topix.net is another example. Just today an announcement of a merger with Topix.net and a few companies like the New York Times show how important these services are for readers and businesses alike.

No matter how you look at it, AFP will lose this battle. It is inherently just an attempt to extort money out of Google. What AFP does not realize is how badly they have damaged their clients. Political Gateway is one of their clients and we have been devastated.

Google decided to respond to the extortion and stupidity of the lawsuit by actually winning the battle. Google’s response? They stopped syndicating the news from sites using AFP of which this site is one. Not only is our AFP news not syndicated, but our editorials and independent news feeds are also blacklisted. Any news posted after Tuesday morning at 3am cannot be found on Google anywhere. It is a matter of time before the other services that ‘grab’ our news follow suit.

What does this mean for our site? No news aggregation, no news syndication, no news on search engines, no readers can find us, no traffic. Add all this up and you can see the economic value of the site is gone.

Perhaps suing AFP would make up the difference.

So what to do now?

We have tried contacting Google over and over. We have deleted almost all AFP content (which we paid dearly for) to try to appease them. Not a single answer back. AFP just says ‘sorry’. Soon the other news systems will kill us too.

Political Gateway is only one of two news services in the US that use AFP and are syndicated by Google. We are not sure who the other one is, but we are trying to find this out. We offered an independent and worldly news service that differed from most including some top notch editorialists. Now no one can find us on newer news topics.

It is over, AFP killed us. We are no longer a viable news source. We feel sorry AFP employees may soon be laid off, but you cannot expect customers to stay with them for long while getting killed financially.

Our recent upgrades to the server to handle the traffic cost us dearly. The monthly total cost of the site went up significantly with the new servers to handle the load. We no longer have that traffic, or income, to pay these high prices.

In time the lawsuit will end, AFP will lose, Google and AFP will compromise and all will be as it was. Except for sites like this one who will lose financially and emotionally, as it always is when big business collide.

Perhaps we will sue AFP for 17 million for screwing us.

Updates:

March 24: Well, with google blacklisting us, no response from them, AFP tight lipped about the real story and what they are tyring to do to fix it I have to make a decision here. The other services are super expensive and out of range. Smaller ones leave a lot to be desired on issues and world news and UPI is so incompetent they still have not answered, afer 3 days, any pricing-technical-content questions at all.

So to keep the ball rolling and our few readers happy I will continue using the only news service I can afford. I have no choice. I cannot let this site die completely. Perhaps being the only site online with AFP coverage in the US it may get me noticed. My fear is the other news 'grabbers' will cancel all AFP news also and I will be an island of information... I just wish someone would kiss me while they are doing it to me.

March 23: Google will not answer any of our mails or questions nor will AFP. They have no comment. I can think of a few comments for both of them.

We tried to get Reuters, but they start at 3,000 a month. Whew, that is a high 'get started price'.

Then we tried AP but they never called or wrote back (not unusual for those guys at all)

Then we tried UPI, United Press International. For two days we have been waiting for an example of their news as there is not ONE place online that uses their full news feed for us to check out. After two days they sent us an example in 'XML' which you cannot read easily without a program parser and is only about 20 stories. Obviously their professionalism leaves too much to be desired.

We have looked at Copley News, but all they carry is Editorials and very few news items.

Yellow brix is a content provider that deals with all the services and their smallest 'starter' set is for 1,000 per month.

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