Google UK has denied forming secret deals with several UK publishers to supply content to its Google News service.

A report in the Sunday Herald claimed that Google was understood to have reached deals with several large UK news groups over carrying their content on Google News.

The report added: "The deals are reputedly being kept strictly secret for fear that Google will end up having to pay for similar licences with all of the 4500 news services it carries on its news aggregator."

The report went on to say that although it could not confirm which news groups had reached deals with Google, it seemed likely that it has bowed to pressure from news groups.

A spokesperson from Google UK today said the company had not forged secret deals with UK publishers to pay for indexing content.

She also countered suggestion that Google may have lost the argument over carrying stories without paying for them.

She said that Google considered its news service to be legal and not a breach of copyright as only a limited amount of content was used. She added that no new deals had been struck with UK publishers to provide longer form content that went beyond current copyright limitations on Google News.

Google does have several deals in place with UK publishers to index content behind pay walls, although the report suggests that the deals are in relation to free-to-access content.

"We have not changed our approach to Google News," said the Google spokesperson.

"We believe Google News is legal. We index the content of thousands of news sources online. When users go to Google News, they see only headlines, snippets and image thumbnails from the relevant news articles. If people want to read the story, they must click through links in our results to the original website.

"In some circumstances we have entered into an agreement that allows us greater use of content. For example, we've agreed to pay the Associated Press (AP) for the right to make new uses of their news content - uses that go beyond the limited uses permitted by copyright laws. This use of AP content will make our services even more valuable."

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