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,"