Google Loses Copyright Case, Drops Belgian Links

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- A Brussels court said Google Inc. violated copyright laws by publishing links to Belgian newspapers without permission and ordered the company to remove them, setting a precedent for future cases in Europe.

Google, the owner of the world's most-used search engine, must pay 25,000 euros ($32,500) a day until it removes all Belgian news content, the Brussels Court of First Instance ruled today. There's ``no exception'' for Google in copyright law, the court said. The Mountain View, California-based company said it has already removed the content and will appeal the ruling.

The contention of the Belgium publishers is that Google's reproduction of snippets of their content denies them visitors to their sites, or when people do visit they go directly to relevant content bypassing the front page, and hence denies their advertisers an audience.

Other aggregation and search sites are also affected by the precedent that this sets.

My initial reaction to this is one of astonishment. Whilst I can understand that the publishers are concerned that Google disintermediates them from their customers, I wonder if these "readers" are actually incremental readers brought by Google. In my case, I check out my regular news(paper) sites such as Times, Telegraph, Reuters and Bloomberg and then check headlines on Google news. The latter provides me incremental/breaking news but also secondary sources for stories I've seen covered in the first group. Hence, my route to ever looking at the Belgian publications is via Google and I represent incremental eyeballs for their advertisers. Moreover, I may discover new publications that I become attached to, which would have otherwise remained hidden.

If the habits I exhibit were to generally be the case, the only way that Google would have done the Belgian publishers a disservice is if their customer base migrated to Google News and discontinued their "loyalty" to a particular news brand. But such hollowing out of the users base is likely to occur irrespective of google coverage, assuming the publications failed to meet readers needs/wants.

As for advertisers, smart inventory placement should mean that advertisers are positioned with relevant sections and stories that closely align them with the demographic of interest to them.

So, I wonder whether the Belgians have actually done themselves and their advertisers a huge disservice. Funnily enough, I believe by them offering RSS feeds of their publications far fewer subscribers are ever likely visit the main site - certainly I never visit many of the actual sites that I subscribe to.

posted by John Wilson @ 5:54 PM Permanent Link newsvine reddit


At 8:21 AM, Blogger Hawkeye said...

I think the most important point in all of this is the one you made in your last paragraph. Offering an RSS link on your site is an invitation to subscribers NOT to return to the main site and thus any site offering an RSS feed should have no case if Google also offers the same sort of link (with proper attribution of course).


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