24 January 2006

The Best Thing to Happen to the News Since Huey Lewis

Last April, I noted Google's tendency to provide significant product functionality in a semi-permanent beta status; the two notables I highlighted most prominently were Gmail and Google News. It's worth noting now that Google News has finally shed its beta designation, nearly four years after its launch (March 15, 2002 according to SearchEngineShowdown.com, although Google's own announcement lists a September, 2002 release date).

As mentioned in my earlier post, Wired has speculated that the lengthy beta period was due in considerable part to copyright concerns associated with commercializing the Google News product:

The minute Google News runs paid advertising of any sort it could face a torrent of cease-and-desist letters from the legal departments of newspapers, which would argue that "fair use" doesn't cover lifting headlines and lead paragraphs verbatim from their articles. Other publishers might simply block users originating from Google News, effectively snuffing it out.

It will be worth watching the reactions of those news outlets spidered by Google News to see whether Wired's speculation was on-target. For now, Google News still carries no overt advertising, but it's difficult to know whether this represents an accord between Google and the MSM, an assessment by Google's counsel that a non-beta but non-commercial Google News constitutes fair use, or just a defferal of day of reckoning predicted by Wired.

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