Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Google loses newspaper suit

Tom Sanders, Belgian newspapers claim final victory in Google spat, Information World Review, February 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

A court in Belgium has upheld an earlier ruling against Google that prevents the search provider from copying newspaper headlines in its Google News service and search index.

The case was filed by Copiepress, a group that represents 18 Belgian newspapers including Le Soir, La Derniére Heure and La Libre Belgique. The organisation alleged that Google's cache and news services offered free access to its copyrighted materials.

A judge last September ordered Google to remove all the copyrighted materials and threatened the firm with a €1m daily fine if it failed to comply.  Google has since removed all references to the newspaper websites from its services, and vowed to fight the legal ruling....

Google said that it was disappointed in the ruling and said that is would continue its appeals.

"It is important to remember that both Google Web Search and Google News only ever show a few snippets of text. If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the web publisher's site where the information resides, " the company wrote on its official blog.

"We believe search engines are of real benefit to publishers because they drive valuable traffic to their websites." ....

Also see the statement from Rachel Whetstone, Google's European Director of Communications and Public Affairs.

I'm still thinking about how the decision might affect Google's book-digitization projects, especially the opt-out Library project (as opposed to the opt-in Publisher project).  Meantime, John Blossom's comment makes good sense:

...[T]he tactic of taking Google to court is more about trying to gain some leverage in licensing negotiations. From that perspective, the Belgian court decision would seem to be a huge loss for publishers who thought that they could force Google's hand prior to a court's judgment. The truth of the matter is that many publishers don't have the foggiest notion of what the monetary value of exposure of their content in Google would be and therefore would rather chance a suit that would allow them to see what is comfortable to Google. This seems terribly bass-ackwards; why not just come up with a little research to determine that value and enter into earnest negotiations from that starting point? Google's "crawl first, ask questions later" policy may be flawed, but the technical control to prevent search crawlers from entering a Web site have been around for more than a decade. It's time for publishers to stop playing games and to take a more serious look at Google as a business partner that can deliver good value from their services - if you have a good handle on the metrics needed to prove out that value.

In short, if you don't know whether Google boosts net sales, then investigate; and if it does boost net sales, then cooperate (and celebrate), don't litigate.

Update. Here's another good comment, from Ben Vershbow:

[The newspaper suit is] an act of stunning shortsightedness....What the Belgians are in fact doing is rendering their papers invisible to a potentially global audience. Instead of lashing out against what is essentially a free advertising service, why not rethink your own ad structure to account for the fact that more and more readers today are coming through search engines and not your front page? While you're at it, rethink the whole idea of a front page. Or better yet, join forces with other newspapers, form your own federated search service and beat Google at its own game.