Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Google loses again in Belgium

The AP reports that Google has lost again at a Belgian court in a suit by 18 mostly French-language papers that Google News violates their copyright rights.

The AP says the newspapers, part of Copipresse, argued that Google's cache allows access to older stories that the papers normally sell out of their archives. But Google News does not show a cache link, unlike its main search, so I wonder if the wire service is interpreting that correctly. (For a good, earlier article on the ins and outs, see Danny Sullivan's on the Search Engine Watch blog. Sullivan pretty much concludes this isn't about caching but about forcing Google to pay for any kind of link to a publisher's material.)

The same court had ruled against Google last summer, but the search-engine giant did not appear at that hearing and asked the court to reconsider so that it could present its case. Google says its news service is "entirely legal" and that it will appeal.

The Belgian court ruled that Google's technology violates Belgium's data storage laws. Unclear is whether anything similar exists in U.S. code (I'm not an expert; feel free to chime in on this). It did cut the potential fines to about $33,000 a day from a possible more than $1 million.

As search engine expert John Battelle told E-Commerce Times after the latest ruling: "The honeymoon period is over for Google when it comes to content owners."

Of course the other side of the argument has been that Google drives users to Web sites, providing untold revenue opportunities

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