Tech News

Google hits setback in copyright case

By Steve Ragan Feb 14, 2007, 21:01 GMT

Google was given a rather nasty setback recently over the copyright lawsuit filed by Copiepresse, who manages copyrights of several of Belgiumís French and German language newspapers. In Belgium courts, it was ruled that Google violated copyright law, and was ordered to stop publishing articles, images, and links to Belgium newspaper websites.

On top of the removal order issues, Google must also pay a fine of $32,390 retroactively for each day the images, articles, and links appear on Google News. The retroactive fine that Google was ordered to pay could top $4.7 million, according to Britainís Telegraph newspaper. The figure was also confirmed by the Associated Press wire reports related to the case. Originally, Google was ordered to pay a fine of one-million Euros a day for each article published, but after the recent ruling, the fine was cut to twenty-five thousand Euros.

The lawsuit covers a range of complaints filed by Copiepresse, most of them center around the publications of news articles published on Belgiumís news websites. The complaint covers links, article text, and related images. The claim focuses on copyright violations because Google makes money from advertising on the Google News portal. Copiepresse also claims loss of revenue by their clients because Google archives these stories, and images for later search. Most of the news sites that are involved in the lawsuit charge users a fee to access archived images, and news stories. The Belgium courts tend to agree saying Google cannot be exempt from copyright law, in the decision.

The focus on money is what started this case. Because the newspapers might loose revenue on the Google archived content, they claim that Google violates copyright by offering their paid services free while making money on their own ads. Google does not share any revenue with the sites it indexes on Google News. Most sites listed on Google News use their own advertising accounts.

Looking at several Belgium news websites listed on Google New some use Overture for related advertising, and there were some Google sponsored placements. Clearly using CPC and Ad-Word like advertisements are something the news sites fighting against Google are not willing to give up. Why should they? It is clearly a good source of income for sites with traffic.

That point brings us to Googleís response. They are disappointed, because the entire point of Google News is to send traffic to the news site because people are interested in the stories listed on Google News. The sheer volume of users who could travel to a new and unknown sites based on stories listed on Google is untold. It makes sense that having a story listed on Google News will get attention. Google shows the first part of the story and a related image. Clicking on the article title of the story, transfers you to the news site that posted the article.

The battle is a stalemate no matter what side you pick. You could take Googleís point of view, there is no wrongdoing involved, and they are simply sending traffic. You could take the courts side, that Google violates copyright by archiving the data, and allowing access. Either way the point is going to go in endless circles.

There is one point made by the Belgium news sites that does call for some sort of action on Googleís behalf. The sites in question, most of them charge for access to an article or image after a certain date. If that is the case then the best resolution would be for Google to drop the related content form their index at the point in time when the news sites start to charge for them. That would be a nice middle ground, but the court case appears to be over money mainly, so this might never be an option.

There is no set date reported for the appeal that is to be filed on behalf of Google to be heard. When and if they get back in front of a judge to hear the appeal, you can bet this will be big news. You can also bet Google News including will carry it as well.

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