Belgian courts have ruled that Google is in breach of copyright.
The case was brought by Copiepresse, a copyright protection organisation that was representing 17 [UPDATE (thanks Michel) French-speaking] Belgian newspapers, complaining that both Google’s search and News service were in breach.
Their complaint is that their news pages are being cached by Google, thus, in their view, offering free access to their valuable content. Google’s argument is that they only display a headline and a short part of the content and also point out that they drive huge amount of readers to the newspapers Web sites.
This action was first launched last August in the Belgian courts. Google lost the case and was directed by the judge to remove the offending articles from the Google.be site and corresponding news service and post messages to their home pages. Google appealed the decision and lost yesterday.
Copiepresse is also pursuing similar action against Yahoo and MSN and it’s reported that they are in touch with copyright groups in Norway, Austria and Italy.
Google respect both robots.txt and metatags that enable any Web pages publisher to exclude them from being included in the Google index. As Google’s Rachel Whetstone, European Director of Communications and Public Affairs, points out, if asked, Google will remove content if requested.
We’re very confused by the ruling. How do these publishers think people are going to find their content without a search engine pointing them? Sure, their regular readers will still visit their home pages, but their potential readership will not be aware of the quality of their writing.
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