Google is famous for the clean, barren look of its front page. It looks like they may be forced to lose that in Belgium. In the ongoing case where a bunch of newspaper publishers are trying to force Google to pay them to index them and send them traffic (a move that has search engine optimizers worldwide wondering what they could possibly be thinking), Google appealed both parts of the ruling. The bigger issue (the indexing and showing links to Belgian certain news sources) will be heard on appeal in November. However, on the issue of forcing Google to place the entire text of the legal order on the front of both google.be and news.google.be, the Belgian courts have turned down Google's appeal, and said they will start fining the company if it does not place the entire text (with no commentary, either) on both websites. This seems drastic and entirely unnecessary for a variety of reasons. All it really seems to do is broadcast the backwardness with which Belgian news publishers view the internet. It makes you wonder... do Belgian publishers require libraries to pay them extra money to list their books in a card catalog? What this really highlights, however, is that there are still plenty of industries out there that don't necessarily understand how the internet works -- and that can cause all sorts of problems for internet companies who assume most people understand when things are being done for their benefit. From a policy perspective, someone in Belgium might want to recognize how dangerous this ruling may be for its own industry. Even though it was made at the request of these Belgian newspapers, the long term effect could end up being quite damaging. Not only does it remove traffic to these sites, but it should also make any other search engine think twice before doing business in Belgium.
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