September 24, 2006

Weekend Question 4: Do the Belgian Publishers Suing Google Understand What They’re Doing?

ANSWER: Thanks to Google’s reaction, they may understand that they are undermining their ability to viably function on the Internet.

From the “You Asked for It, You Got It” Department: Google Totally Removes Belgian News Sites

Those who follow this blog know that there is generally not a lot of love lost between yours truly and Internet Wall of Shame member Google. But when they’re in the right in a fight over free access to information, I have to defend them.

Last week I posted on a Belgian court’s ruling that “Google ….. (must) pay 1 million euro a day if it does not remove all news articles and pictures from French and German language newspapers on its news site ….”

The ruling also required that Google post the full text of the Belgian court’s order on the home page of Google’s Belgium web sites. Reuters reported Friday that the company has done that, and indeed, it has, for both the main Belgian search engine and Google News Belgium (scroll down, it’s there).

The Search Engine Watch Blog (HT Techdirt) reported last week that Google threw the plaintiffs and the court a major curveball over the previous weekend — In addition to removing roughly a dozen sources from Google Belgium News, it removed them from Google Belgium and Google News worldwide entirely:

Google says it interpreted “all their sites” as being all sites that it views the court having jurisdiction over, anything using the domain. In addition, Google has removed the sites from Google News worldwide, saying it is treating the ruling as it would any request to be removed from Google News. In those cases, you’re dropped entirely, not on a country-by-country basis.

I think what Google has done is necessary to comply with the court’s ruling, and consistent with preventing what the plaintiffs said they objected to: taking a sample of copyrighted content from their web sites for indexing purposes without compensation.

Danny Sullivan, the Search Engine Watch blogger, thinks this a “laughable” overreaction by Google, but I totally disagree. I hope the plaintiffs enjoy their Google invisibility. I also hope they lose this battle, because I see it leading to a direct assault on “fair use” against any site that earns even minimal revenues. If the Belgian publications win, I’m hard-pressed to see why they and other content providers couldn’t sue to keep bloggers and others from excerpting any of their content beyond a very few words.


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  1. Google didn’t go far enough, They also need to exclude all Belgian travel and export sites.

    Comment by triticale — September 25, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

  2. Economics and Social Policy XV…

    archives submit post

    Welcome to the October 1, 2006 edition of Economics and Social Policy. Pretty soon, I’ll have exhausted my knowledge of roman numerals….

    Trackback by The Boring Made Dull — October 1, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

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