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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More from the Belgian newspapers who don't want Google links to their headlines

Nate Anderson, Belgian papers demand huge fine from Google News, Ars Technica, May 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

..."[T]he Belgian court ruling (PDF) against Google...last year...[held]that Google News (Google.Actualités) was a gross violator of copyrights owned by the French and German daily press in the country. The offense? Using headlines and a sentence or two from these articles for Google News. Now, the AP notes that Belgian press group behind the case is back in court, seeking up to €49 million ($76.9 million) in damages for all those headlines.

The whole case might seem a bit absurd to readers from all the other countries where Google News is legal, but the Belgian Copiepresse trade group sees its business model at stake. Within a month of Google rolling out the service to Belgium in January 2006, the group began legal proceedings to have its materials removed. The argument was simple: the headlines and brief snippets that Google was using to highlight articles violated copyrights of daily papers in Belgium. The papers objected because they didn't want Google deep linking to their content; they wanted visitors to come to the site homepages and click around a bit, generating more page-views and keeping visitors from "bouncing" from one source to the next.

This was the basis for our own Ken Fisher's comment when the case was decided last year: "They actually resented the fact that Google News might direct readers to their content, because they feared that a search engine might do what it is designed to do: get people what they want the first time. Copiepresse's member companies would prefer that you hit their home pages and wander around aimlessly instead. No, I'm not joking."

The publishers also objected to some material remaining available in Google's cache after it had disappeared behind a paywall at the original site....

When Google lost the case, it not only pulled the stories from the News archive and stopped indexing them, but it yanked the papers from its main index. Apparently, this wasn't good for business, and the papers soon worked out a deal to get back in the index while remaining out of Google News....

[T]he Court went on to rule that Google did not qualify for the "citation and news reporting" exemptions in Belgian copyright law for a variety of reasons not particularly interesting to go into here.

So, Google lost the case and was ordered to remove articles from any publication that requested it within 24 hours of receiving such notice. Fines would be issued for any delay, but Google wasn't on the hook for massive damages. Now, however, Copiepresse wants those damages, and it wants a provisional fine of €4 million while the much larger fine is being worked out....

Comment.  See my post on the suit from February 2007.  In my newsletter the next month, thinking the case was over, I said, "The Belgian newspapers...are now vindicated and invisible."