Saturday, September 23, 2006
COPYRIGHT: Google loses appeal in Belgium copyright case; but gets another chance
By AOIFE WHITE
AP Business Writer
Sat Sep 23, 7:18 AM ET
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Google Inc. lost an appeal Friday of a Belgian court's requirement that the Internet search company publish on its home page the ruling in a recent case it lost.
Google spokesman D.J. Collins said the company would appeal again at a Nov. 24 hearing when the court takes up a broader challenge, saying the requirement was "disproportionate and unnecessary." Google faces daily fines of about $640,000 for refusing to post the Sept. 5 ruling on its Belgian home pages, Google.be and news.google.be.
The company plans to appeal the main part of the ruling as well, even as it is already complying. The court ordered Google to stop publishing news excerpts and small photos from Belgian, French and German newspapers without first paying them or getting their permission.Google said it is removing Belgium's French-language newspapers Le Soir, La Libre Belgique and La Derniere Heure from its indexes, but it did not post the ruling itself.
"We believe it was disproportionate and unnecessary, given the extensive publicity the case has received already, especially while its substance has yet to be debated in court," Collins said. Google said its service is lawful and drives traffic to newspaper sites because people need to click through to the original publisher to read the full story. Local newspaper editors argued that Google's popular news site stole traffic from individual newspapers' sites.
Collins said it was up to the plaintiff -- Copiepresse, the Belgian association that manages copyright for Belgium's French-language newspapers -- to decide when the daily fine starts and finishes. Google did not attend the first hearing on Aug. 29, saying it was unaware of the complaint. Belgian law allows the case to begin again with a clean slate in these circumstances -- as it did at another hearing on Wednesday.
Google News, which debuted in 2002, scans thousands of news outlets and highlights the top stories under common categories such as world and sports. Many stories carry a small image, or thumbnail, along with the headline and the first sentence or two. Visitors can click on the headline to read the full story at the source Web site.
The French news agency AFP sued Google for at least $17.5 million in damages in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., arguing that the Google service adds little value because its news site looks much like those of AFP subscribers, albeit one where software and not human editors determine the placement of stories on a page.
Separately, Google has agreed to pay The Associated Press for stories and photographs. Neither Google nor New York-based AP have disclosed financial terms or other details because of a nondisclosure agreement.
A group of newspaper trade associations announced plans Friday for a pilot project by year's end to automatically grant republication authorizations to Internet search engines. The World Association on Newspapers, the European Publishers Council, the International Publishers Association and the European Newspaper Association said jointly that the new tool should answer problems such as Google's dispute with Belgium newspapers and make newspaper content more widely available. The group did not say whether the tool would include a payment mechanism, promising to provide more details within weeks.
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