For Murdoch Using Other’s Content Is Bad….Except When

Rupert Murdoch really did open a can of worms when he said he was going to pull all of his content from Google. TechDirt decided to take a look at the hypocrisy that surrounds the media mogul when it comes to using other’s content:

As Rupert Murdoch talks about how he wants to cut off Google, while claiming that aggregator sites are "parasites" and "stealing" from him -- and that fair use would likely be barred by the courts, it seemed like a good time to examine at least some of the sites that are owned by Rupert Murdoch that appear to aggregate content from other sites and which rely on the very same fair use argument. We've mentioned a few in the past, but figured it wouldn't hurt to explore them more thoroughly.

Take a look at all the examples of News Corp websites “stealing” (Murdoch’s words) from other websites.

Let me pull up just one example user by TechDirt from the Wall Street Journal:


There you have the WSJ pulling headlines from numerous tech sites and placing it on their own site. You might also think that those links go directly to the article on the source website, but you would be wrong. Here is what happens when I click on a link from one of today’s posting in their widget:


It gives you a “Digg” type feeling on the WSJ. You aren’t taken to TechCrunch when clicking from that widget, but instead you go to another WSJ page that displays that image.

Now let’s have a look at the actual TechCrunch article:


So the WSJ is taking the headline and first paragraph verbatim and republishing it. You’d think this would be considered fair use, unless you are Rupert Murdoch, who said this:

He also challenged the idea that Google and others could take just the headlines and opening lines from his papers’ stories, indicating that he would not tolerate even that.

“[They use] a doctrine called fair use, which we believe can be challenged in the courts and will bar it altogether,” he said.

So to Murdoch Google isn’t allowed to do what his own websites do? Seems like a pretty steep double standard.

I also decided to look at how Google displays this article I chose. Let’s look at it then compare it to how the WSJ displays it above:


The WSJ snip of the content is about twice as long as Google’s. So we have one of Murdoch’s own companies “stealing” double the content that Google is.

Fair use has always been a very gray area in law. The doctrine exists, yet the courts have never ruled on what exactly constitutes “fair use”. Groups like bloggers would really love for this to happen – finally a way to know exactly how much you can quote, but the media companies know this could very easily backfire on them. That’s the reason why we don’t see fair use cases in court. The media giants are afraid they will lose, so they throw everything behind their multi-million dollar might at the little guy to keep it out of court.

Now imagine if Murdoch opens up this Pandora’s box. What if Murdoch starts war on the internet and going after everyone who simple links a headline from one of this sites. We could very well see a court battle open up that would ultimately define “fair use”, between two members of the very industry that threats such a court action. That would be a bitter sweet irony with the potential of a beautiful outcome. Imagine being a blogger and knowing exactly what you can and can’t do, instead of “the rules” being dictated to you by some high dollar attorney for the plaintiff?

I want now, more than ever, for Murdoch to make true on his threats. Get the court actions going and let’s finally define exactly what “fair use” entails.