A Belgian court on Monday ordered web search giant Google to stop publishing content from Belgian newspapers without permission or payment of fees.
The Belgian Association of Newspaper Editors, which handles copyright for the French- and German-speaking press in the country, lhad filed the complaint against Google.
If Google doesn't comply with this month's ruling and continues to publish Belgian newspaper copy without permission and without paying a fee, the Belgian Court of First Instance will fine the company €1 million daily, the association said. "It's an infraction of Belgian and EU laws, the newspapers are losing money this way and, above all, Google thinks it is outside the law," the association's Secretary-General Margaret Boribon said.
Google said Monday that it plans to appeal the decision, adding that it wasn't notified of the lawsuit or allowed to defend itself at the Sept. 5th hearing.
The company's policy "benefits publishers by making it easier for people to find their content," added Google spokesperson Rachel Whetstone.
The popular Google News services indexes news/article updates from more than 4,000 publicatiions and shows a few lines of text, under a link that is clicked to enable the user to enter the publication's web site to read the entire article.
Google spokesperson Rachel Whetstone added that the company has an "opt-out" policy for publishers who don't want their content on Google, making the Belgian court case "entirely unnecessary," she said.
While Google has no problem omitting the disputed content from its listings, it would be impractical for the company to contact every publishing company to get permission and pay a fee before publishing any articles as the press association has requested, she added.
The publisher's association said the problem isn't simply about permission and money, but that when an Internet user clicks on a story on Google News, they are redirected to the story but not to the newspaper's home page.
"Our objective is not to stop Google from delivering their service -- they're very good," Margaret Boribon is reported to have said. "We just want it clear that they can't use content the way they are."
Boribon said it will be up to individual newspapers 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.
She added that she hopes her counterparts across Europe will follow her association's lead.
The publishers wish to have their cake and eat it. They object to what is termed deep-linking to individual pages but on the other hand, they do allow search engines to index individual pages. Thay can redirect all accesses to their home page if they wish. That is of course unlikely to happen becuae although they compalin about Google, they do not also wish to cut off access by web users to individual pages.
Last year, the French news agency Agence France-Presse brought a lawsuit against Google similar to the Belgian one.
Google then removed AFP content from its news site.