Belgian Newspapers Score Victory Against Google

    February 13, 2007

It’s beginning to look like 2007 could be a very long year for Google in the legal department.

In a court ruling early Tuesday, a judge ruled in favor of Belgian newspapers in their dispute with Google, citing that the Internet company was guilty of copyright infringement.

The Brussels court ruled in favor of Copiepresse, a consortium that represents the eighteen newspapers that brought complaints against Google.

The group was upset that articles from its publications were appearing in the archives of Google News, some of which the newspapers offer as part of a subscription service only.

Google vowed to immediately appeal the decision, claiming that the articles appearing on its news site do not violate any type of copyright law.

“We believe that Google News is entirely legal,” the company said in a statement. “We only ever show the headlines and a few snippets of text and small thumbnail images. If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the newspaper’s Web site.”

Even though the courts sided with the content owners in this case, it also ruled that it would be up to copyright owners to contact Google by e-mail to address any time of dispute concerning articles appearing on Google News. Google would then have 24 hours to withdraw the content or face a daily fine of $1,295 (1,000 euros).

And speaking of fines, the court imposed a retroactive fine of $32,390 (25,000 euros) for each day Google did not comply with Copiepresse’s request to remove the Belgian content from the site.

This figure is much less than was indicated in an earlier judgment, which could have potentially forced Google to cough up $1.3 million (1 million euros) a day.

On a personal note, I’d like to congratulate the Belgian newspapers on their resounding legal victory.

For their efforts, they’ve won the fabulous prize of receiving even less traffic to their sites.

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