AFP, Google Settle Lawsuit over Google News

By Eric Auchard

Agence France-Presse and Google Inc. have settled a copyright lawsuit, clearing the way for Google to post snippets of the French news agency's news and photos online, the two companies said on Friday.

In a joint statement, the two companies said the accord allows the Internet giant to post AFP content on Google News and other services. Terms of the pact were not disclosed.

The AFP lawsuit, closely watched in the media industry, was filed in the United States and France. It sought damages and interest as well as to bar the use of AFP text and photos without prior permission. AFP agreed to withdraw the action.

Agence France-Presse filed the suit two years ago accusing the Web search company of copyright infringement for posting AFP headlines, news summaries and photos, without the news agency's permission, on its automated Google News site.

"The most significant copyright case against Google News, that filed by Agence France-Presse back in March 2005, has now ended," Danny Sullivan, a top analyst of the Web search industry, said of the deal on his Search Engine Land blog.

Google News allows consumers to search by keywords for news summaries and links to news stories, grouping together related stories based on a computer analysis of the material's underlying thematic relationships. The service is available internationally in 40 languages or regionalized versions.

The new agreement "will enable the use of AFP's newswire content in innovative, new ways that will dramatically improve the way users experience newswire content on the Internet," the companies' statement said.

The settlement comes eight months after Google struck a licensing deal with AFP-rival Associated Press, or AP, in which Google agreed to pay AP for use of its news. Reuters also has a variety of deals to supply news and photos to Google services.

AFP's lawsuit filed two years ago against Google was followed by a similar challenge to Google News by Copiepresse, which manages copyrights for a variety of Belgian papers.

In February, a Belgian court ruled that Google must stop reproducing headlines from Belgian newspapers or face fines. At the time, a Copiepresse executive said she would consider allowing Google to display extracts from its papers for a fee.

Under the agreement reached, AFP headlines and photographs will again be available on Google News, Google Actualites, the French-language version of Google News, and other Google services, driving traffic to Web sites displaying AFP news content, the news agency said.

"The agreement will allow uses of AFP's content in ways that go beyond its typical use of content in Google's services, which features just headlines and snippets of text to provide just a taste of what an article offers," AFP Chairman and Chief Executive Pierre Louette said in the statement.

AFP has existing licensing agreements with Google rivals Yahoo Inc. Microsoft Corp. MSN, Time Warner Inc.'s AOL and other Internet services.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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Eric Auchard, Reuters
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