AP, Google confirm online news deal

Google Inc. and the Associated Press confirmed on Thursday they agreed several months ago to a licensing deal to use AP news stories on products beyond the existing Google News service.

The agreement, details of which were reported on Sunday by the San Jose Mercury News, goes beyond existing ties by which Google links web readers to Associated Press member-newspaper stories through its topical news search system, Google News.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

"It's a licensing agreement that lets us use original AP content in new ways than we have used in the past for Google News," Google spokeswoman Sonya Boralv said.

AP spokesman Jack Stokes confirmed the licensing deal, but provided no further details.

Beyond the financial impact for either party, the deal is important symbolically to a media industry on the defensive.

Some publishers and other media content owners complain they have lost the ability to control how their online content is consumed with the rise of web search systems from Google and other web companies such as Yahoo Inc..

This shifting balance of power has reduced once mighty publishers to backseat contributors, while allowing Google and Yahoo to capture a growing percentage of resulting advertising revenue as more readers get their news online.

Google News gathers news stories from more than 4,500 global sources and lets users search for them by typing relevant words into a small text box. Expanded readership can help media partners boost audiences and advertising revenue.

But Google News (http://news.google.com) has also stoked controversy within the publishing industry since it was first introduced nearly four years ago.

French government-backed Agence France Press (AFP) sued Google in 2005 for copyright infringement seeking to block how Google News links to the international wire service's news stories, headlines and photographs.

That lawsuit, which is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, remains in procedural stages.

Google senior litigation counsel Michael Kwun said his company believes that "fair use" protections and copyright law protect Google's rights to link to news sites' content. "Publishers can opt out of Google News at any time," he said.

By contrast, Reuters , a rival of both AP and AFP, works actively with Google to promote its news stories on Google News. Google and Reuters have a partnership by which Reuters provides a variety of news, information and data to Google Finance, a separate financial site, a spokesman said.

AP's recent deal with Google is the latest move it has made to make AP news more easily available to online readers, while at the same time helping its member newspapers benefit financially by driving traffic to their sites.

In May, AP struck deals with blog search company Technorati, under which readers of stories on AP member websites see links to relevant weblog commentary, and with local news search company Topix.net, which helps promote news stories from AP publishers that are nearest to online readers.

Backers of Topix are also leading members of the AP.

AP links to a smattering of its top stories, photos, audio, video and graphics on its own site at http://hosted.ap.org. Instead, it concentrates on supplying news to Web readers via the sites of its 440 U.S. newspaper or broadcaster members.

Google is in talks with other news outlets for access to current and archived material, but what stage those talks may be at is unclear, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

"This is not the first time we have had a financial relationship with a news organisation," Boralv said, but she declined to disclose partners involved or to comment further.

(Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan in New York)

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