Skip to main content

Belgian agency to sue European Commission again over news aggregator


Copiepresse is the newspaper representative body which is in a protracted legal battle with Google over that company's use of newspaper material in its Google News service. It won its initial court battle and is now claiming damages of up to €49 million from the search engine giant.

Copiepresse also launched a legal challenge to the European Commission's news aggregation services NewsBrief and NewsExplorer. These collect the day's news from various sources and present a digest of the news.

The group took the case on the same grounds as its Google case, that the use of the material without newspapers' permission was an infringement of their copyright. The Commission said that it "fully respects the law on copyright" and that exemptions to that law for commentary on news reporting allowed it to use material.

Belgian press reports said that the case was thrown out of the Court of Seizures in Belgium – a court used when one party wants the state to take action against another – because a report produced for the court backed the Commission and because there was a jurisdictional problem with the case .

The Commission successfully argued that the case was in the jurisdiction of the European Communities.

Copiepresse had a technical report produced for the court which appeared to back its case, but at a subsequent hearing the Commission appeared, at which point a new report had to be produced. That report was legal rather than technical and appeared to back the Commission's position.

Once the second report was produced while both parties were engaged with the trial process the judge ruled the first report inadmissible.

In a rough computer-aided translation the Commission's lawyer said: "contrary to what Copiepresse claimed, the report shows that the Commission respects copyright since Europe Media Monitor (EMM) is using quite legitimate the exceptions provided by law."

"It provides that, under certain circumstances, it is not necessary to ask the permission of the author to make use of his work. This is particularly true of the press review," said the Commission lawyer, in translation.

General secretary of Copiepress Margaret Boribon told Belgian news agency Belga that the group would not appeal against the throwing out of the case but would re-submit it to Belgium's civil court.

"The main thing was to get the European Commission out of the woods," she said.

Boribon said that it would not be set back by the throwing out of its report because the Commission-submitted report also gave it information on which it could take action. "We no longer need it because now we have even more to support our action before the civil court," she said.

The Commission's lawyer said that the case had been thrown out on jurisdictional grounds because before the Commission's participation in the case the judge had considered the initial report without the context of the European law arguments that the Commission eventually made.

In May of this year Copiepresse published the assessment of Professor Alain Berenboom of the Free University of Brussels about how much Copiepresse should be paid by Google. Berenboom found that the losses attributable to that activity were between €32.8 million and €49.2 million for a single year, and that it would be for the Court to decide which figure to choose as the damages to be paid to Copiepresse members.