Belgian Newspapers win Copyright Lawsuit against Google

Google logo On Tuesday, a Belgian court ordered Google to refrain from showing excerpts of articles from French and German-language Belgian newspapers on Google News and Google’s Belgium Web search site. Google has thus officially lost the copyright lawsuit to Belgian newspapers that had demanded that it remove headlines and links to articles posted on Google News without their permission.

This happens to be the search engine giant’s second involvement with the case. In fact, in September, Google lost in a ruling and the case was reheard. Towards the end of the year, Google settled with Belgian journalist and photographers, but not with the organization ‘Copiepress’, which represents around 17 mostly French-language newspaper publishers. So while this case was pending, Google has been complying with the order.

According to Google spokesperson Ricardo Reyes, “Google is disappointed and we intend to appeal the ruling because we believe that Google.be and Google News are entirely legal and provide great value and critical information to Internet users. However, we are very pleased that the judge agreed Google should be given notice of articles and other material that content owners want removed. As we have in the past, we will honor all requests to remove such materials.”

“It is important to remember that both Google Web Search and Google News only ever show a few snippets of text,” Reyes added. “If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the Web publisher’s site where the information resides. We believe search engines are of real benefit to publishers because they drive valuable traffic to their Web sites.”

Copiepresse said that the ruling was based on European Union Law and could give rise to similar cases against Google in other countries as well. In fact, Copiepresse also said that it had been in touch with copyright groups in Austria, Norway and Italy.

However, Google does not feel the same, and said that the judgment would not necessarily carry influence in other countries. Yoram Elkaim, legal counsel for Google News said, “This ruling does not mean that everywhere else or every other judge in any other country would rule in the same (way), even in Belgium. There are conflicting rulings on those issues which are fairly new and complicated.”

Google said that the court had yet not settled the debate on what the ruling covered, claiming it applied only to Google News Belgium and www.google.be.

Google will have to pay $32,000 for each day that it did not comply. This amount is far lower than the earlier judgment that had threatened Google to pay up $1.3 million a day.