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Publishers: Search Engines Violate Copyrights

European publishers warned Tuesday that they cannot keep allowing Internet search engines such as Google Inc. to make money from their content.

"The new models of Google and others reverse the traditional permission-based copyright model of content trading that we have built up over the years," said Francisco Pinto Balsemao, the head of the European Publishers Council, in prepared remarks for a speech at a Brussels conference.

His stance backs the French news agency Agence France-Presse, which is suing Google for pulling together photos and story excerpts from thousands of news Web sites.

"It is fascinating to see how these companies 'help themselves' to copyright-protected material, build up their own business models around what they have collected, and parasitically, earn advertising revenue off the back of other people's content," he said. "This is unlikely to be sustainable for publishers in the longer term."

Consumers were drawn online by free content but this needed to change, he said.

"The value of content must be understood by consumers so that new business models can evolve. Industry must have legal certainty and the confidence that their intellectual property will be protected.

Balsemao said that good quality content produced by professionals would be the "gold content" for new media.

Last March, Agence France-Presse (AFP) claimed the "Google News" service infringed on AFP's copyrights by reproducing information from the Web sites of subscribers of the Paris-based news wholesaler.

It is seeking at least US$17.5 million (euro14.85 million) in damages. AFP says Google is breaking rules on the "fair use" of copyright material because its news site looks similar to those of AFP subscribers.

The Google News service, which debuted in 2002, scans some 4,500 news outlets and highlights the top stories under common categories such as world and sports.

Many stories carry a small image, or thumbnail, along with the headline and the first sentence or two. Visitors can click on the headline to read the full story at the source Web site.

Yahoo Inc. has a similar service, though it uses human editors and pays some news sources, including AFP and The Associated Press, for rights.