Belgian Court rules against Google

19 Sep 2006

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) A Belgian court has ordered Internet search company Google to stop publishing content from Belgian newspapers without permission or payment of fees, a Belgian press association said.

The Belgian Association of Newspaper Editors, which handles copyright matters for the French- and German-speaking press in the country, lodged the complaint over Google News, a search service in which headlines, excerpts of stories and small versions of photographs are reproduced to refer visitors to full articles on newspaper sites.

The association said the Belgian Court of First Instance has threatened daily fines of $1.27 million in its ruling earlier this month.

Margaret Boribon, secretary general of the association, said individual newspapers will have to decide on fees for their articles separately, so it isn't clear how much Google would owe Belgian newspapers for a day's content.

Google currently is defending a separate lawsuit filed in the US by Agence France-Presse, arguing the service is protected under 'fair use' provisions of copyright law.

In the Belgian case, Google spokeswoman Rachel Whetstone said the news service is 'entirely consistent' with copyright law and benefits news organizations by referring traffic to their sites.

She added that the Belgian newspapers did not need to take the case to court because Google lets any news organization decline to participate upon request. Google has removed the Belgian newspapers from its Belgium index and is in the process of removing them from its global index, she said.

© 2006 The Associated Press

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