Updated at 3:40 p.m. PDT to include Wall Street Journal's deals for some of the news that it aggregates.
The Web site aggregates links to stories. Along with the links is a short description of the news. Thomson and others in the newspaper industry say it's unfair and unlawful for Web sites to profit from their content without compensating them. On the same day that Thomson made his comments, William Dean Singleton, chairman of the The Associated Press, sized up how many in print journalism feel about sites that aggregate news: "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore."
But Gabe Rivera, who founded Techmeme, a popular tech-news aggregation site, suggests that Techmeme displays only a short snapshot of a story. This, says Rivera, serves only to promote the content.
"All successful Web publishers want their content quoted and linked," Rivera wrote in an e-mail to CNET News. "The benefits are clear. Some prefer that the quotes remain short...these are precisely the kind that Google and Techmeme use. So for AP and News Corp. to discourage quoting is a clue that they don't really get the Web and are in danger of shooting themselves in the foot."
"It's illuminating to observe that both WSJ (a News Corp. property) and NYT (a key AP member) are both themselves news aggregators," Rivera wrote. "Both maintain sections which quote headlines from external sites. So, constituents of these organizations already know aggregation is useful and fair. This knowledge just hasn't reached AP's and News Corp.'s leadership."
The Journal and Times do have cooperative exchanges with some publications. Dow Jones, the Journal's parent company, operates the Factiva service, a database of business stories and other information, which has financial arrangements with numerous news outlets. But the Journal does aggregate some Web content without compensating owners, according to a source with knowledge of the company's business partnerships.
On Tuesday, Google defended itself and other aggregation sites in a blog post.
"We show snippets and links under the doctrine of fair use enshrined in the United States Copyright Act," wrote Google associate general counsel Alexander Macgillivray on Google's blog. "Even though the Copyright Act does not grant a copyright owner a veto over such uses, it is our policy to allow any rights' holder, in this case newspaper or wire service, to remove their content from our index--all they have to do is ask us or implement simple technical standards."
Both Thomsom and Singleton hinted that their companies may consider mounting legal challenges to sites that package news stories without permission.