Which newspaper bosses will oppose safe harbour for search engines?

Our unelected upper chamber is going to work on Lord Mandelson’s Digital Economy Bill, which resumed its second reading in the House of Lords today.

Ralph Palmer, the 12th Baron Lucas and 8th Lord Dingwall (a.k.a. Lord Lucas) has tabled a string of amendments to the Bill. Cumulatively, they suggest ambitions that stretch beyond this peer’s day job as editor and proprietor of The Good Schools Guide.

Most of Lord Lucas’s amendments (and there are a few of them) sound like sensible attempts to blunt the more extreme impulses of the music business.

Lord Lucas has described the major labels as a ‘powerful, monopolistic’industry that ‘seeks to punish [consumers] before thinking of how to serve them better”.

Interestingly, the Tory peer is also proposing what sounds like a British equivalent of the ‘safe harbour’rules that protect search engines from news organisations launching copyright lawsuits in the US.

Specifically, Lucas proposes ‘a standing and non-exclusive license’that would protect search engines when they ‘copy of some or all of the content’on web sites and display them in search results.

Here, too, Lucas seems to be siding with the independent little man (in the shape of Google and the web surfing public) against ‘powerful'(if not quite monopolistic) media barons like Rupert Murdoch and Gavin O’Reilly.

On this basis, we were intrigued to see that the Lords’ Register of Interests lists Lord Lucas as a ‘significant shareholder’in Archant.

Can we therefore expect that Adrian Jeakings, the recently-appointed chief executive of Archant, will become the first British newspaper boss to state publicly that Google’s use of extracts in search results really isn’t a problem, after all?

Perhaps Murdoch MacLennan, the chief executive of Telegraph Media Group, will emerge to support him.

Certainly, Lucas’s amendment seems to have gone down well at the Telegraph Media Group, which remains famously friendly with Google.

Ian Douglas, the paper’s head of digital production, calls Lucas’s amendment ‘brilliant”, arguing that it will save ‘ill-advised newspapers’from spending millions of pounds on suing Messrs Brin, Page and Schmidt.

Equally, if Lucas’s amendment is approved, it remains unlikely that Google-hating newspaper bosses will remain above the fray. The chances of a lawsuit materialising has always been small: but the threat of launching one remains useful.

No doubt this thought has already occurred to lobbyists who ply their trade on behalf of Rupert Murdoch in and around the Palace of Westminster.

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