Expatica news

Papers win copyright case against Google

13 February 2007

BRUSSELS (AFP) – A Belgian court dealt a blow to Google on Tuesday by ruling against the US internet giant in a copyright case lodged by French-language Belgian newspapers and closely watched by other media.

A Brussels court found that “by reproducing on its Google News site articles and short extracts from articles, Google reproduces and communicates to the public works protected by copyright.”

A year ago Copiepresse, the association of Belgium’s French-language newspapers, opened a Belgian lawsuit against Google News to require the internet group to request their permission and pay them to show their articles on its site.

On September 5, a Belgian court ordered Google News to stop reproducing content from French-language and German-language newspapers in Belgium on its Belgian website and imposed fines as long as it did not respect the decision.

In that ruling, the court told the company to pay Copiepresse a million euros (1.3 million euros) for each day that the forbidden articles, pictures and graphics appeared on its site.

In Tuesday’s decision, the judge backed Google’s claim that the fines were “disproportionate” and reduced them to a more “reasonable” 25,000 euros per day.
Copiepresse lawyer Bernard Magrez said that that meant Google would no longer have to pay a total of 130 million euros but three million euros.

Google was not immediately available for a reaction.

In a hearing in November, Google’s lawyers argued that the papers were seeking to profit from its immense financial success in recent years

Google’s main defence was that it is a search engine that helps users find information on other websites and not a so-called portal that hosts its own information.

The case in Belgium is being closely watched by other news providers, including Agence France-Presse, which has been in dispute with Google in France as well as in the United States.

A spokesman for the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers welcomed the court’s ruling and said that Google and other internet companies would now have to be more careful about treading on papers’ copyrights.

“It shows that content providers and publishers have to be part of the discussion with search engines otherwise it’s going to end up in court,” said WAN spokesman Larry Kilman.

A spokesman for the European Commission said that the EU’s competition watchdog was following the case “with great interest for different reasons” but declined to comment any further.

After opening news websites for about thirty countries in four years, Google launched a Belgian version in January 2006, much to the concern of the country’s French-speaking newspapers.

The newspapers had also asked Microsoft to stop the unauthorised publishing of articles on its “www.msn.be” site, which the company later did. They are also seeking redress from Yahoo.

[Copyright AFP]

Subject: Belgian news, Google