Google to appeal Belgian copyright ruling; Latest Trademark World

The IPKat's friend Cristian Micelli (LASP) has sent him this link to the increasingly talked-about ruling against Google in a copyright case in Belgium, in which a court last Tuesday ordered the search company to stop showing excerpts of articles from French- and German-language Belgian newspapers on Google News and Google's websearch site for Belgium. This decision affirms an earlier ruling by the same court against the company, while halving the daily fine Google faces for non-compliance. Google, having failed to persuade the court that full-text caching plus excerpt-only reproduction could constitute fair use or that the burden lies with copyright owners to exercise an 'opt-out' option, intends to appeal. According to a spokesman for the company,

"We believe that and Google News are entirely legal and provide great value and critical information to internet users. However, we are very pleased that the judge agreed Google should be given notice of articles and other material that content owners want removed. As we have in the past, we will honour all requests to remove such materials. It is important to remember that both Google Web Search and Google News only ever show a few snippets of text. If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the web publisher's site where the information resides. We believe search engines are of real benefit to publishers because they drive valuable traffic to their websites".
Left: if the IPKat were making a cache in Belgium, it would be of something tastier than Belgian newspapers

IP litigation lawyer Chris Ruhland (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe) is quoted as saying:

"They won a legal victory for now but maybe not in the long term. In 2007, if you are not findable in Google, you might as well not exist for practical purposes".
That sort of comment, the IPKat feels, summarises the gulf that exists between US and European perceptions of copyright. If copyright owners wish to remain invisible, or to allow access to their works on a highly selective or limited basis, that is seen in Europe as their entitlement. Merpel agrees: the fact that Google confers a commercial (or any) advantage on the Belgian newspapers against their will may be commendable but it doesn't make it lawful.

Belgian newspapers here and here
Inexistence - what Roget's Thesaurus has to say here
Inexistence here, here and here
STOP PRESS: more details on the decision from Bloomberg here
Thanks too to Smita Kheria (Queens University Belfast) for sending the IPKat some links to this dispute!

The February 2007 issue of ten-times-a-year Trademark World, published by Informa, seems to have a larger number of shorter articles this time round - or perhaps this is a reflection on the IPKat's ever-growing attention span. Pick of the issue are these three items:

* "... And when no green bottles can accidentally fall", an appraisal by Philip Wolski from the charity PURE The Clean Planet Trust, on how IP lawyers can save the planet by working from home, recycling ink (!) switching off lights and putting on an extra woolly sweater instead of turning up the office heating by 5 degrees [note from Merpel - I've tried recycling ink, but without much success. I find it really hard to scrape it off the paper and get it back into my pen ...];

* A J Park's Bryan Thompson explains the workings of the New Zealand geographical indications (GIs) legislation, passed for wines and spirits last November;

* A piece on the darker side of GIs, asking how far they can intrude into the happy workings of the European trade mark system, by two lawyers from Grau, Baylos & Angulo (Barcelona), Jorge Grau and Maite Ferrandiz.
Google to appeal Belgian copyright ruling; Latest Trademark World Google to appeal Belgian copyright ruling; Latest <i>Trademark World</i> Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, February 15, 2007 Rating: 5


  1. Of course copyright needs to be respected... But wouldn't it be an awful lot easier if the people who don't want their site to be indexed flag their site so that Google just ignores it?

    That's how simple it is: make a file on your website, call it "robots.txt" and copy the following into that file:

    >User-agent: *

    This effectively asks all search engines not to index the complete site.

    More info here:

  2. I disagree with your thoughts on the quote: "They won a legal victory for now but maybe not in the long term. In 2007, if you are not findable in Google, you might as well not exist for practical purposes".

    I read the quote as saying, the papers might have won a legal victory, but if you can't be found in Google because you are persnickety about your copyrights, that you suffer a business defeat by not getting any traffic to your site from Google. I don't think that the EU and US are as far apart on this issue as you do.

    I could be wrong, but I don't think that Google is going to move any time soon towards paying anyone royalties to include them in their news feeds. Of course, if everyone followed the Belgium model, and if Google found it profitable to pay royalties and keep Google News, the newspapers might one day get their Waffles and eat them too. But I doubt it.

  3. Dear Anonymous: you're right, it would be easy in practice. But the bigger question is why you should have to take any steps at all? It's a bit like saying I can walk across your garden unless you take the simple step of putting up a fence or a "keep off" sign, or that I can help myself to your cup of coffee when you put it down on the table, if you haven't got a convenient "hands off my coffee" sticker.

    Dear Jordan: I actually read the quote as meaning the same thing you did. But Belgian newspapers, being parochial, might well take the view that their advertisers' business, like their own, is confined to a small patch of the planet - Belgium - in which they can promote their existence without the need for Google hits. Why then should they welcome Google, especially if Google can profit from their provision of hittable Belgian newspaper data without the need to remit any of their profit?

    By the way, I'm keeping as open a mind as I can to the arguments on both sides (being a big Google user as well as a copy-generator and copyright owner) and await the appeal ruling with bated breath.

  4. Jeremy: You can't compare a website with a garden. Those newspaper websites are very happy to get visitors, even if they are uninvited. You can even print an article and give it to a friend if you want, because most of those websites have a "print" button. In any case, every time you visit a website, you are in fact copying it. The only exception they want to make is search engines. They know search engines have a longer memory than paper or the automatic cache on everyone's computer.

    If I walk in your garden, I'm doing something I'm not allowed to do, because it's your property. If Google visits your site, well, that's what your site is for!

    That was my most important point; but on a side note: I would like to add that finding a "hands off my coffee" sticker really is quite difficult compared to putting a small file on your website.

  5. All readers of Douglas Adams will know that the word 'belgium' is the most offensive swear word in the galaxy. Google may already know this.


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