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Bobbie Johnson, The Guardian
November 9, 2009
Rupert Murdoch says he will remove stories from Google’s search index as a way to encourage people to pay for content online.
In an interview with Sky News Australia, the mogul said that newspapers in his media empire — including the Sun, the Times and the Wall Street Journal — would consider blocking Google entirely once they had enacted plans to charge people for reading their stories on the web.
In recent months, Murdoch his lieutenants have stepped up their war of words with Google, accusing it of “kleptomania” and acting as a “parasite” for including News Corp content in its Google News pages. But asked why News Corp executives had not chosen to simply remove their websites entirely from Google’s search indexes — a simple technical operation — Murdoch said just such a move was on the cards.
“I think we will, but that’s when we start charging,” he said. “We have it already with the Wall Street Journal. We have a wall, but it’s not right to the ceiling. You can get, usually, the first paragraph from any story – but if you’re not a paying subscriber to WSJ.com all you get is a paragraph and a subscription form.”
The 78-year-old mogul’s assertion, however, is not actually correct: users who click through to screened WSJ.com articles from Google searches are usually offered the full text of the story without any subscription block. It is only users who find their way to the story through the Wall Street Journal’s website who are told they must subscribe before they can read further.
Murdoch added that he did not agree with the idea that search engines fell under “fair use” rules – an argument many aggregator websites use as part of their legal justification for reproducing excerpts of news stories online.
“There’s a doctrine called fair use, which we believe to be challenged in the courts and would bar it altogether… but we’ll take that slowly.”
Murdoch’s attitude towards the internet – which appeared to have thawed when he bought social networking site MySpace for $580m in 2005 – has stiffened more recently.
Over the summer, Murdoch had announced that he planned to introduce website charges by next year – but last week it emerged that his controversial plans had been delayed, saying that “I wouldn’t promise that we’re going to meet that date”.
Additionally, it emerged that MySpace, which has struggled in the face of competition from Facebook in recent years, was due to fall short of its targets in a lucrative search deal with Google — a slip that could cost the site more than $100m in payments from the internet advertising giant.
In the Sky News Australia interview, Murdoch underlined his feelings towards those companies by listing a litany of names of those that he felt were overstepping the boundaries.
“The people who simply just pick up everything and run with it — steal our stories, we say they steal our stories – they just take them,” he said. “That’s Google, that’s Microsoft, that’s Ask.com, a whole lot of people … they shouldn’t have had it free all the time, and I think we’ve been asleep.”