Google News Sued

I noticed, ironically enough, on Google News, that Google News has been sued for $17.5 Million by Agence France Presse:

French news agency Agence France Presse is suing Google Inc over what it calls “unauthorized” reproduction of wire stories and copyrighted pictures on the Google News service. AFP are seeking $17.5 million recompense from the world’s number one search engine.

I’ve come to rely on Google News as my main “quick overview” of what’s going on in the world. The new customized news is another great example (along with gmail and Google Maps) of Google’s genuine innovation in creating usable interactive applications where competitors have thus far been trapped in perceived limitations of HTTP that basically involve submitting a form for each separate step of a transaction.

Google has been taking quite a battering in France of late. It lost an appeal relating to its AdWords sale of the trademark “bourse des vols” (“flight exchange”), as well as a similar lawsuit brought by luxury goods company Louis Vuitton.

I expect by the time this is over Google may be involved in every important case that will determine the boundaries of copyright and trademark law on the Internet. Unlike many of the defendants in the file sharing cases, for example, Google (1) has an incentive, and a pocketbook, to litigate these cases, and (2) has a decent argument that its appropriation of intellectual property is productive and not merely reproductive.

If Google keeps losing in France, I wonder if it will attempt to offer a different service in France than in the United States—perhaps selecting by IP address of request, or by portal site (e.g., will deliver different content to conform with the French rulings than In either case, it will be quite easy for people in France to access the same content as Americans. My fear is that we’ll end up with a “least common denominator” result, where Google and other web service company will be forced to conform to the most restrictive legal regime of any country connected to the Internet.