“She cries, but she’s eating”

Thursday, 13 December, 2012

When the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, engineered the Partition of Poland in 1772, his strategic power play greatly distressed the Holy Roman Empress, Maria Theresa, sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma, Duchess of Lorraine and Grand Duchess of Tuscany. Asked about the reaction of the empress to his move, the canny Frederick said, “She cries, but she’s eating”, thereby neatly summing up the hypocrisy of his rival.

And so it is today with Germany’s newspaper and magazine publishers. They’re crying, but they’re still eating. The cause of their grief is Google, which they accuse of devouring their gargantuan lunches, but they have no compunction about selling their precious pages to the search engine for its advertising, and the same goes for the valuable real estate of their websites, which increasingly features Google ads encouraging readers to “defend their net.” Frederick the Great, a keen scholar of Latin, would have enjoyed this fine example of audiatur et altera pars (“hear the alternative party too”) in action. The expression refers to the principle that no person should be judged without a fair hearing in which each party is given the opportunity to respond to the evidence against them.

UPDATE: This just in, and it’s rather grim news for German publishers: “Google, Belgian Newspapers Settle Copyright Link Dispute.” Bottom line: “Under the accord, Google will not pay for the use of Belgian content”. It’s all part of the Zeitgeist.

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