The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) is leading a publishing industry task force to challenge what it calls the 'exploitation of content' by search engines.

The group wants publishers and search engines to develop mutual policies and practices that will encourage a more formal commercial relationship. Although publishers benefit from search engine traffic, they have been frustrated that these business models rely on aggregating parts of their content, such as headlines and images, without permission.

In a statement, WAN president and task force chair Gavin O'Reilly said traditional publishers are increasingly being targeted by the strategic efforts of search engines.

"Google, Yahoo and other search engines are not some new breed of social benefactors of information - they are assuredly commercial, very-much-for-profit organisations and not the new Robin Hoods," he said.

"The irony is that these search engines exist, largely, because of the traditional news and content aggregators and profit at their expense."

The task force will include representatives of WAN alongside the European Newspaper Publishers' Association, European Publishers' Council and Agence France-Press (AFP).

AFP last year began legal proceedings against the search engine Google claiming it used its headlines and photos without permission.

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