Google bans Belgian newspapers in copyright spat

Google has blocked all search results relating to a consortium of Belgian newspapers after the Internet giant was sued for including the papers' content on its Google News pages.

An organisation called Copiepress, which represents the French and German language newspapers, successfully sued Google back in May in a case which claimed that including articles from the web sites of the publications in question on Google News was detrimental to their own web traffic and revenue.

Google lost both the initial trial and the subsequent appeal and was told it could face fines of €25,000 for each day it failed to comply with the ruling if it continued to aggregate news from the consortium's sites.

In a tit-for-tat move based on its own interpretation of the ruling, the search engine virtual monopoly has apparently decided to remove all search results relating to the newspapers, effectively excommunicating them from the Internet.

According to an AP report, one of the publications, La Capitale, has accused Google of 'boycotting' it.

Google is sticking to its guns, a spokesman saying, "We would be happy to re-include Copiepresse if they would indicate their desire to appear in Google Search and waive the potential penalties."

It's not clear if the spokesman was including 'Google News' within 'Google Search' as part of the offer but the brouhaha looks set to be bogged down in legal semantics for some time to come as the confusion is apparent on both sides of the argument.

An article calling foul on Google in a recent edition of La Libre made the same point: "It is necessary to distinguish the Google search engine from the Google news service," the article said. "The news editors do not oppose having their content referenced by the Google search engine, they refuse on the other hand for their informational content to be included in Google News."

Unfortunately for the Belgian news industry, it's Google's ball and the biggest player on the Internet can pick and choose who it wants to kick around with.