Google Busted for Copyright Violation in Belgium

Google infringes the copyrights of Belgian newspapers by placing links to and portions of their articles on Google News, the Belgian Court of Appeals has ruled.

As a result, Google is required to remove all articles and photos from all Belgian newspapers in French and German. Google faces a daily fine of roughly $35,500 (25,000 euros) if it fails to implement this judgment.

The ruling is the latest verdict in a series of lawsuits that began in 2006 when the group Copiepresse filed the suit on behalf of Belgian newspapers. Copiepresse, a commercial copyright watchdog for the Walloon region of Belgium, claimed the newspapers were losing visitors and ad revenue because Google published links to and portions of their articles on Google News. The Walloon group claimed that the publishers should be paid for placing their content on Google News.

Later that year, a Belgian judge ruled that Google should remove all content created by the newspapers from its websites. A higher court upheld this ruling a year later. The search giant appealed this verdict and tried to settle with the papers at the same time. This attempt failed, and Google removed all articles from the newspapers from Google News in 2007. Google later began adding links again.

Meanwhile Google has insisted that the company is doing nothing wrong. The Mountain View-based company stated that it only placed a link and a short introduction to the articles on Google News, as is common on the Internet. According to Google, the company encourages Internet users to visit the newspapers' websites.

Google Netherlands spokesman Mark Jansen told Webwereld that the company is contemplating the ruling. "We believe that Google News is fully consistent with all applicable copyright laws," Jansen said.

"We remain committed to work with publishers, and continue to seek new ways to generate revenue for the online distribution of news," he said.

Copiepresse said in a statement that it is pleased with the ruling. The Walloon group hopes that Google "will have the intelligence to find a fair solution to end this situation," the statement said.

The ruling does not apply to Flemish newspapers. They seem to have no problems with Google News.

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