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MSN Won’t Fight Belgian Publishers

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After Google did a lot of foot-stomping, breath-holding, and tongue-sticking in Belgium over the demands of Copiepresse newspaper publishers, MSN is trying to play nice with Belgian critics. As usual, Microsoft tests the waters by letting somebody else go first.

And since all the huffing-puffing grandstanding didn’t keep Google from having to remove Copiepresse material from its News index, or from having to post the judgment against the company on their Belgian homepage, MSN takes the irrational publishing dinosaur incomprehension of the value of search engines as a cue that they should negotiate.

Copiepresse wrote a letter to MSN Belgium seeking that the company stop indexing and snippeting its content without permission. MSN is asking for a “compromise” that appears to include licensing of the content as MSN already begins removing articles from its index.

Last month Google lost in a court decision after unsuccessfully arguing Fair Use principles that have worked for them in US courts. Neither the Belgian newspaper publisher nor the judge would be swayed that search engine indexing is good for newspapers, as consent seems to outweigh traffic there.

What seemed like insult to injury to the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine was that the court required posting of the judgment against the company for a certain amount of time on the Google.be homepage. Google refused for all of 15 minutes or so, until the company realized that a $640,000 per day fine until compliance outweighed the need for civil disobedience.

While Google has a history of short-lived protests against governments (the US, China, Brazil), Microsoft has never really had any fight in it. From censored search results in China to handing over search records to the US Department of Justice immediately upon request, a big part of Microsoft’s corporate philosophy seems to center on how well the behemoth plays ball.

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MSN Won’t Fight Belgian Publishers
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