Google found guilty in Belgium for newspapers' copyright infringement

By EDRi · May 18, 2011

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Belgien: Google verliert Klage wegen Urheberrechtsverletzung |]

Google lost its appeal in front of the Belgian appeals court which upheld an
earlier ruling, having found the company guilty of infringing the copyright
of newspapers, in the case introduced in 2006 by Copiepresse.

In 2006, Copiepress, an agency acting for newspapers, sued Google for
allegedly infringing the copyright of newspapers when linking, on its Google
News service, to content from newspaper websites or copies of sections of

A Belgian judge ruled that Google had to remove all the content referring to
Belgian newspaper stories from its services and the Court of First Instance
in Belgium upheld that ruling in February 2007.

Google appealed the decision and argued that Google News was fully
consistent with applicable copyright laws and considered that US law should
have applied in the case because the company posts the articles of the
Belgian sites from the US. However, the court, based on the Berne
Convention, estimated that only the Belgian law could be applicable and that
the distribution through the website of works that are protected
by copyright in Belgium was illegal and that it did not matter that the
posts were made automatically by robots from abroad.

The court also estimated that one didn’t need to read the entire article
to understand the information posted by Google, that Google News could not
be assimilated with press review and it infringed the paternity right by not
mentioning the name of the author.

The court’s decision asked Google to remove all links to material from
Belgian newspapers in French (the rulings do not apply to Flemish
newspapers). Failing to comply with the court’s decision may bring Google a
fine of about 25 000 Euro per day.

“References with short titles and direct links to the sources is not only
legal, but also encourages the users to read the online newspapers” stated
Al Verney, spokesperson for Google.

While Copiepress welcomes the decision, Google reminded the agency that it
is not the only search engine making reference to online contents but that
actually, this is common practice with most search engines.

It also seems Google wants to bring the case to a higher court.

Google infringes copyright when its services link to newspaper sites,
Belgian court rules (10.05.2011)

Court’s decision (only in French, 5.05.2011)

Google Busted for Copyright Violation in Belgium (7.05.2011)

Copiepresse press release (only in French, 5.05.2011)

Google loses the Copiepresse case in appeal (only in French, 9.05.2011)

New condemnation of Google News in Belgium (only in French, 9.05.2011)

EDRi-gram: Belgium court backs decision against Google (14.02.2007)