Google, Microsoft Surrender To Belgians

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Microsoft and Google have agreed to remove content managed by Copiepresse of Belgium from their indexes, with Google further being requested to pay nearly $43 million in fines.

Instead of battling with Copiepresse on its home turf in Belgium’s Court of First Instance, Microsoft chose to comply with the firm’s requests to remove German and French language articles managed by Copiepresse from its websites.

A Forbes report cited Sylvie Irzi, from Microsoft Belgium, who said, “Microsoft does not, for the moment, wish to enter into legal debates with Copiepresse, and is provisionally complying with their requests.”

Despite the compliance, Microsoft does not necessarily believe Copiepresse is in the right on this issue. But considering how poorly Google fared in court against Copiepresse, Microsoft may be taking the easy road out of this mess.

Microsoft also may wish to stay away from negative headlines in Europe. The company has been fighting antitrust officials in the EU, and their case will be heard eventually in the Court of First Instance in Belgium, which is where its appeals will be heard eventually.

Google already had to display a copy of the court’s decision against it on its Belgian home page for five days. The company fought the requirement, but finally posted the judgment at Google.be, in very small print.

Daily fines of one million Euros per day accumulated until lawyers for Copiepresse were satisfied that Google was removing its managed content. Copiepresse asked that the fines be suspended, leaving the company with 34 million euros, or roughly $43 million, to pay.

News of the case against Google came to light in September, when a report from Chilling Effects exposed the Belgian court decision in favor of Copiepresse. Google had been ordered to remove “the articles, photographs and graphic representations of Belgian publishers of the French – and German-speaking daily press…from all their sites.”

Google made its displeasure with the decision known in a pair of blog posts from corporate executives. Rachel Whetstone, Google’s European director of communication and public affairs, said in September, “(I)f publishers don’t want their websites to appear in search results (most do) the robots.txt standard (something that webmasters understand) enables them to prevent automatically the indexing of their content. It’s nearly universally accepted and honoured by all reputable search engines.”

The next day, Google’s David Kun, VP for content partnerships, posted about content and copyrights. He did not directly mention Copiepresse, but his post definitely rung with commentary that could have been aimed easily at Copiepresse:

Google News is a good example of how Google protects copyright in practice. We index the content of thousands of news sources online. When users go to Google News, they see only headlines, snippets and image thumbnails from the relevant news articles. If people want to read the story, they must click through links in our results to the original website.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Google, Microsoft Surrender To Belgians
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