Google indexing of links to newspapers violates copyright laws: Belgian court

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A Belgian court has fined Google $32,600 for every day it continues to publish links to news articles in Belgian newspapers, an action that the court ruled a violation against copyright laws.

Google said that it plans to fight the decision.

"Google is disappointed, and we intend to appeal the ruling because we believe that Google.be and Google News are entirely legal and provide great value and critical information to Internet users," said Ricardo Reyes, a Google spokesman.

"However, we are very pleased that the judge agreed Google should be given notice of articles and other material that content owners want removed. As we have in the past, we will honor all requests to remove such materials," Mr. Reyes said.

Publishers around the world are following the ruling closely because this may be the beginning of a battle over who deserves to monetize from content.

Google maintains that newspapers benefit from having their links on Google because the links direct people back to the papers' Web sites.

Josh Bernoff, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) covers online copyrights but can't keep up with what's really happening. Large numbers of clips - including copyrighted images, video, and music - are posted online.

Legally, Google needs to remove such content when copyright owners requests them to, but such content often ends up being reposted almost immediately.

Mr. Reyes rebutted.

"It is important to remember that both Google Web Search and Google News only ever show a few snippets of text," Mr. Reyes said. "If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the Web publisher's site where the information resides."

He also said that if publishers do not want their Web sites to appear in search results, technical standards such as robots.txt and meta tags enable them to automatically prevent the indexation of their content.

These Internet standards are nearly universally accepted and are honored by all reputable search engines.

In addition, Google has a clear policy of respecting the wishes of content owners.

"If a newspaper does not want to be part of Google News, we remove their content from our index - all it has to do is ask," Mr. Reyes said. "There is no need for legal action and all the associated costs."

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