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May 18, 2014

Bravo! The EU "Right to be Forgotten" May Save Newspapers

Forbes, Wash. Post, and Info Week cover the EU court decision this week on the EU right to be forgotten and a decision that Google should remove outdated, no longer significant links, upon request of involved individuals. From Information Week,
On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google must delete "irrelevant" links from its search index because a Spanish man complained about two news articles that mentioned an old debt. The man sought the removal of the articles from the website of a Spanish newspaper and the removal of links in Google's index pointing to those articles. The Spanish data protection authority allowed the newspaper to keep its articles, because the stories reported facts, but decided that Google had to remove its links to the articles. Google appealed and lost.

The Information Industry decries this as a misunderstanding of the way information and modernity works, as unworkable, and as a Luddite throwback that will kill the Internet. This from the people that hand over all your messages and FaceBook posts to the NSA.

So let's talk about what sort of news business Google is in. Google takes (the verb is chosen intentionally) online news stories that other people have paid to develop and delivers it along with Google's advertising. In other words, Google takes other newspaper's stuff and then sells it to the public, in their own very efficient, wide-reaching web newspaper - along with the ads that Google sells. Google supports this business model with stolen expensive content, taken without permission, resold for the advertising dollars.

The EU Court decision says: Google can keep doing that, but after a certain unspecified period of time - let's say, five years - Google can't archive or link to that news anymore; only the originating newspaper can. That's huge for the economics of newspapers; now their content isn't stolen for ever, now their archives have value and they can control them and monetize them.

The EU judge just did something great for the newspaper industry, and by extension democracy. Does anybody believe that Google is going to go out of business over this? Hardly.

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