Ynet Balks at Google News

Local media worried by Hebrew content aggregation service

Concerned that the newly launched Hebrew-language Google News will bite into their business, Israel's media barons have decided to fight the search giant's latest venture. Ynet yesterday became the second Web site to refuse to allow its content to appear on the Israeli version of the news collation service, following a similar decision by Walla!.

Google Israel silently launched the local version of its news collation service this week, and Walla! promptly advised that it opposed allowing its content to appear on the page. Now, the Yedioth Ahronoth group's news Web site, Ynet, has joined the developing boycott and advised Google that it opposes allowing its content to feature, TheMarker has learned.

Ynet editor-in-chief Jon Feder commented that it is an internal matter. "We asked to be taken off Google News until we finish examining the ramifications of the Google mechanism on the issue of copyright," Feder said, adding that the presence of the popular Web site's content on Google News could lead to copyright infringement.

Feder said that the Ynet site manager, Yacov Netzer, had written to Google Israel manager Meir Brand asking that the site refrain from using Ynet content.

The beta site of Google News, which went up in mid-week, collates news from all the Hebrew Web sites, and categorizes them by subjects such as entertainment, sports, world, economics, science and technology, and health.

Unlike other Israeli content sites, Google does not employ any content writers, editors or journalists. The site is created entirely by software that analyzes the content of the other sites.

Google News presents only the headlines of the articles and an extract from the start of the articles. Clicking on the headline takes the reader to the article on the original Web site.

As of writing, Ynet still appeared on Google News.

The letter on Walla!'s behalf was sent by the prestigious law firm of Herzog, Fox & Neeman. The letter said that as Google knew, articles appearing on the Walla! Web site were Walla!'s exclusive, copyright-protected property. "Therefore, unauthorized use that your company is making of these items on its Web site constitutes a grave infringement on my client's property rights, by infringing copyright," the letter said.

Therefore, the lawyers wrote, Google was required to immediately stop publishing any news or other item Walla! had published on Google News.

The letter went on to say that collating news items from leading sites in Israel crossed boundaries. "All over the world, the issue of copyright infringement is gaining momentum, with an emphasis on the Internet. We believe there is no place to injure original Israeli content, which, to the contrary, should be encouraged. I am confident that the other leading sites in Israel will not lend a hand to injury of their property and will demand that Google refrain from using their content."

Sources in the Israeli Internet sector said yesterday that they were not surprised by the steps that Walla! and Ynet had taken. Both are among the main sites that Israeli surfers visit to keep abreast of current events.

Walla! is the second-biggest site in Israel from the perspective of its reader numbers, boasting exposure to 61 percent of Israel's surfers, according to a TNS survey, while Ynet is No. 3, with exposure of 44.3 percent. The first site is Google's search engine with exposure of 73.3 percent, but it is merely a search engine and does not show the news of the day.

Google's news engine is a boon to niche sites, however, exposing them to audiences they would not otherwise have reached by presenting their headlines in the same place and with the same weighting as the leading sites.

Walla! and TheMarker belong to the Haaretz group.