Australia is forging ahead with its plan to require Google and others to pay the news industry for sending it traffic.

As has happened in other countries, the Australians should prepare themselves for Google just upping sticks and leaving, resulting in far less internet traffic going to those news sites.

I have a suggestion that they could try out now, which may very well work.

All the newspapers who want to be paid by search engines should set up a search engine and get it to pay them. This isn't all that ludicrous…

First, it's trivially easy for all the newspapers to stop Google and others from accessing their stories. The robots.txt standard is well understood, and is respected by these services1. By configuring this file on their sites, the news organisations can single-handedly stop this so-called wholesale copyright infringement2.

Next, they set up a corporation (non-profit or for profit, or whatever) that will implement its own search engine and will index only the sites of its member organisations. This isn't all that hard – there are even some software options available that they could download and configure themselves. For example, one option is yacy, which is decentralised – each member of the organisation could host a portion of the index, thus spreading the cost.

As regards revenue, there a host of options, too; this organisation could consider hosting ads on this new search engine, or charge users for access to it. They could more easily assign payments to the news sites on the basis of traffic, the full record of which would be retained by this organisation.

It may work. And, I'd probably even use it. It's not all that mad a notion: people go to different sites depending on what they're looking for, so adding a dedicated site for searching news might not be any additional burden for users.

However, I don't think the news industry would do anything like this. It's too … innovative. It's too much of a solution and would distract from complaining about the problem. It denies the sense of entitlement the news publishing industry has; that only they should curate the news but others can distribute it as long as they pay for the privilege.

But … the idea is here and if you want me to help you develop it, you only have to ask.

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It's in use since the early '90s, but Google is promoting it now as a formal specification!


Not "theft" no matter how many times they say it!