Abhilasha Bora
Jul 20, 2011

Google & Belgium: A love-hate tale of sorts!

Google search results and news hits have become a way of life for most of us. Individuals and Corporates do what it takes to be on top of Google’s search results or news hits. Any business or event hinges upon Google for its promotion and there is assumed to be something lacking in it if it doesn’t show on Google.

Here is, however, a story where a small company in some part of the world disagreed with the above and dared to think it could still do without Google.  The story begins from Copiepresse- aBelgian, French-language newspaper copyright management company.

In February, 2006, the Companyand other Belgian journalist groups demanded that their articles should not appear on Google News and its cached remnants. It deemed that “Google News” service reproduces a significant part of its articles without permission. It also challenged the fact that Google stores these articles in its “cache” memory, so that any articles that have been withdrawn from he sites of publishers can still be consulted via the Google site. As Google never sought prior permission for these reproductions, Copiepresse claimes that this amounts to counterfeiting and copyright infringement.

On 5th September 2006, the Belgian Court ordered Google to remove from Google.be and Google.com sites, more specifically from the “cached” links and from the “Google News” service, all the articles, photographs and graphic representations from the newspapers represented by Copiepresse. This was upheld in Appeal and also imposed whooping a 25,000-euro ($36,300) daily fine on Google for any delay in implementing the judgment.

Google obediently followed what was asked of it.

It is pertinent to remember that both Google Web Search and Google News only show a few snippets of text. If people are wish to read the whole story then they have to click and reach to the Web publisher's website where the information actually resides. Lawsuits claiming copyrights over URLs have been common, however, they have not really been entertained barring a few exceptions of the likes of the Belgium Court.

After all this, Copiepresse in Mid July accused Google of boycotting its sites. As per Copiepresse, the battle was over the inclusion of Copiepresse content in Google News. Copiepresse accused that Google pulled Copiepresse content not only from Google News but also from Google Search and said it was done as a punishment for its Google News lawsuit. This claim itself is baseless as the order of the Belgium Court ordered impugned material to be removed from all Google sites.

Were the newspapers suffering loss of revenues or facing decline in readership as a result of being out of the Google search or news results, is hard to know. But the two companies now have apparently come of age the dispute and Google, showing its gentlemanship, has cordially agreed to bring Copiepresse and its newspapers back its stream. As per Google: “We are delighted that Copiepresse has given us assurances that we can re-include their sites in our Google search index without court-ordered penalties…We never wanted to take their sites out of our index, but we needed to respect a court order until Copiepresse acted. We remain open to working in collaboration with Copiepresse members in the future.”

This news comes as Google is battling a search-related EU antitrust complaint. Google’s stand surely goes on to prove how insignificant the whole issue might have been for it. Has it become too big for the small countries?