Google and a group of Belgian newspapers have settled part of their ongoing dispute, in which the papers alleged Google was violating their copyright by linking to their sites. In particular, they alleged that Google's caching of articles -- articles they charge people to read after a certain time -- was illegal. They could have, of course, just used either a robots.txt file or meta tags to control how Google indexed and cached their content, but they felt a lawsuit was a preferable course of action (since the dispute likely had little to do with copyright, and more to do with money). Given that, it's a little odd to see the papers now agreeing to use the "noarchive" tag so they can get back in Google search results. As Danny Sullivan points out, it's hard to see this as anything other than a victory for Google. While its appeal of the court case carries on, it would appear that Google's removal of the newspapers from its site -- in accordance with a court order -- illustrated to the newspapers how much free traffic Google sent them, and how much better off they are with it. Unlike in a similar, earlier case with the AFP news agency, Google hasn't had to cough up any cash or enter a licensing agreement with the Belgian papers -- but again, as Sullivan points out, removing the Belgian papers from its index was far simpler for Google than removing newswire content that gets republished across a wide range of sources. it's also far easier for each paper to measure the impact of their removal, whereas the removal of AFP's stories wasn't felt by the AFP itself, but rather by its customers. It's nice to see the Belgian papers come to their senses; hopefully the courts there will soon follow.
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