Belgian court rules that Google infringes newspaper copyrights


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The Belgian Court of Appeals ruled this week that Google is infringing the copyrights of Belgian newspapers by linking to and posting portions of the articles on Google news. Google must remove all articles and photos from Belgian newspapers in French and German or face a fine of 20,000 euros per day.

This news comes the same week as the release of a Pew Research Center study showing that Google News and Facebook are sending increasing amounts of traffic to news sites. While Facebook's effect has gotten a lot of discussion as a result of that study, Google News is still the biggest traffic driver for the top news sites, accounting for about 30% of their traffic. Of the top 25 news sites, such as Yahoo, CNN, MSNBC, and NYTimes.com, Google News was the top referrer for 17 of them.

It also comes a week before European Union legislators announce proposals for updating the E.U.'s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED). It has been compared to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in the US, which was created six years before the IPRED was introduced in 2004. Those May 18 proposals are expected to include outlines for copyright limitations and exceptions, as well as patents, trademarks, and enforcement strategy.

This appeal was from a lower court ruling in 2007 affecting both Google.com and Google.be. The suit was filed by Copiepresse on behalf of the newspapers, saying that because the pieces Google reposts generate revenue for the company that the publishers should be paid. A pending second suit seeks nearly 50 million euros for the time that the content was available.

Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, has repeatedly made similar complaints, although without filing a lawsuit, despite threats that he would. Last year he called aggregation "a river of gold" for search engines and locked the Times, Sunday Times, and Wall Street Journal behind paywalls.

The European consumer lobby BEUC issued a statement that said, "Exceptions to, and limitations on, rights holders' exclusive rights are an important mechanism for balanced copyright law. This ruling sets these EU aims back and significantly restricts Internet users,"

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4 Comments

craigharffey's picture
Open Source Evangelist

A real backward step and another sign how some of the traditional news outlets are struggling. I am a firm believer of market forces and want to see firms that don't want search engines aggregating content simply opting out (paywalls / banning robots) while others, pleased for the increased exposure and traffic, embrace the inevitable changes.

Unidentified's picture

Yeah, let Google filter out/remove all references to Belgian Press, or better charge them for the privilege of receiving traffic from Google. Its not only in the interests of the consumers but even more so for the publishers to get listed in in Google searches.

Unidentified's picture

If the newspapers don't want to appear in Google News, they just need to block Google in their robots.txt files. (Google it if you don't know about robots.txt).

The fact that they have not is proof that this is just grandstanding and/or a money grab... In other words, they _do_ want to appear in Google News, and this lawsuit is just to obtain attention or money.

DavidSpalding's picture
Open Minded

Never used Google News myself, but when I tried this morning, I found very brief snippets, clear attribution to the source, and a link to the source content provider. I don't see the problem ... though I don't see any (C) notices either.

I guess this would be a problem when the entire (source) article is only 250 words or so. And for Internet readers who have the attention span of a housefly and don't click links. Of course, if those online news sources had their stront together, they'd have interstitial ads intercept users coming from Google, then redirect to the content after their site had made the Belgian equivalent of the "cha-ching" sound.

BTW, I noticed that Google's Language Tools won't translate to or from Flemish ... think there's some sour grapes at work?