For months (years?) Rupert Murdoch has been waving his jowls around and shouting that Google is stealing from him by not paying to index his material. And all along, we've been saying, "Pffft, right. If you don't like it, just add a robots.txt file that tells Google not to index you. Until you do, stop whining and put it back in your pants."
Now Rupert has promised to do exactly that. He claims that he's going to take all of News Corp's websites pay-only and have them removed from Google when he does.
You know what? He's lying. But I think it'd be entertaining if every reporter who interviewed him, for the rest of his life, said, "Hey, Rupert, when are you going to take all your company's websites out of Google?" It'd also be hilarious to get the CEOs of the various pieces of Rupert's empire to comment on whether they want all their company's materials invisible to search engines.
Rupert also thinks that fair use is illegal and that the right court case would result in it being "barred altogether." Again, another hilarious interview question for the rest of his career: "Hey, Rupert, when are you going to abolish fair use? How's that plan coming, pal?"
The revelation came early in the interview, after Murdoch claimed that Google and others are stealing News Corp content in response to a question about who he was talking about when he talked about plagiarists. "The people who simply pick up everything to run with, and steal our stories…they just take them..without payment. That's Google, Microsoft, Ask.com..a whole lot of people."
Murdoch claimed that readers who visit News Corp sites via search offer little value to advertisers, and that News Corp would rather have fewer people coming to their websites, but paying. Asked why News hasn't made its sites invisible to Google, Murdoch replied: "I think we will….but that's when we start charging."
Murdoch also claims that News Corp believes that the doctrine of Fair Use can be challenged in court and "barred altogether."
Update: So here's what I think it going on. Murdoch has no intention of shutting down search-engine traffic to his sites, but he's still having lurid fantasies inspired by the momentary insanity that caused Google to pay him for the exclusive right to index MySpace (thus momentarily rendering MySpace a visionary business-move instead of a ten-minutes-behind-the-curve cash-dump).
So what he's hoping is that a second-tier search engine like Bing or Ask (or, better yet, some search tool you've never heard of that just got $50MM in venture capital) will give him half a year's operating budget in exchange for a competitive advantage over Google.
He may, in fact, get a taker. And it will be a disaster. A search engine whose sole competitive advantage is "We have Rupert Murdoch's pages!" will not attract any substantial traffic. The search engine will either go bust or fail to renew the deal.
On this fair use question, my guess is that some evil Richelieu in the legal department has been passing torrid whispers to Rupert about how the Berne Convention's "Three Step Test" for exceptions to copyright is overstepped by US fair use and by many countries' fair dealing rules. So Rupert thinks that he can take a case to the WTO (membership in the WTO is contingent on compliance with the Berne Convention) and get all these rules struck down.
Of course, Rupert's own media products make frequent and copious fair use of other copyrights — you can't create without fair use. But the mustache-twirling lawyer at Newscorp probably didn't mention this to Rupert Palpatine (the lawyer probably thinks it'd be OK if every single one of those fair uses was replaced by a process in which lots of lawyers negotiated the terms of every use, probably all reporting to him).
They're wrong, of course. The WTO's rules — and Berne — are necessarily subservient to realpolitik, viz., the US gets $1 trillion of economic activity out of fair use, and it's not going to get rid of it because it makes some UN agency sad (if the UN mattered to the US, the US'd be paying the billions in back-fees it owes). And if the WTO imposes trade sanctions on the US, they'll just be ignored, because the world's factory-states (China, with also-rans such as India and Vietnam) can't afford to stop sending shipping containers full of Happy Meal toys to America. And if the WTO tries to embargo China, it'll quickly discover that the rest of the world isn't prepared to live without plastic tchotchkes and junkware either.
So good luck with that, Rupert. have a delightful, Howard-Hughesian dotage, acting out a crazed, Moby-Dick dumbshow against the Internet, hoping that the world's politics and economies will reform themselves to suit your fevered imaginings. This is how history will remember you.