Belgian Appeals Court Says Google Must Pay Up For Linking To Newspaper Websites

from the linking-is-infringing dept

The insanity continues. You may recall that, five years ago, a bunch of French- and German-language newspapers in Belgium, represented by the organization Copiepresse, claimed that Google was infringing on their copyrights by linking to newspaper stories. The fact that they could have blocked Google if they wanted to didn't seem to matter. They just thought Google should pay up for sending them traffic, and amazingly, a court agreed. The case has gone on for years, with Copiepresse demanding a ton of cash. The latest is that -- astoundingly -- a Belgian appeals court has agreed with Copiepresse, and said that merely linking to these newspaper websites is infringement.

I guess this means we can no longer link to any website in Belgium.

In the meantime, Google has been ordered to remove any and all links to articles and photos from all Belgian newspapers (in German or French -- as the article notes, the Flemish papers have no apparent problem with Google News). Google execs seem understandably bewildered by the decision. First of all, they're sending these newspapers traffic, which you would think is a good thing. Second, for the most part (with a few notable exceptions) courts have found that merely linking is not infringement. And, most importantly, if these newspapers don't want Google linking to them, all they have to do is set up a robots.txt file telling Google to go elsewhere.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:00am

    Wow, the stupid is catching.

     

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  2.  
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    Felix, May 9th, 2011 @ 3:04am

    robots.txt ?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    charliebrown (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:16am

    newsPAPER

    But... But... Trees! =(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Planespotter (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:19am

    How long before Google just starts blocking these types of idiots from it's search algorithm? of course companies will then complain that Google is being anti-competitive and demand another ton of money in damages.

    ...oh...suddenly it all makes sense, it's some jerks idea of a business model!

     

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  5.  
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    Lisa Westveld (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:23am

    I happen to be Dutch and we from the Netherlands always tend to make jokes about how dumb those Belgian people are. Unfortunately, this case just provides us more evidence about the lack of intelligence in certain Belgian areas...

    A Belgian judge once cancelled his trip to the UK. When asked why, he said he considered it too dangerous to drive in a country where they drive on the left side of the road. When they told him that it's not as bad as he thinks, he replied: "Well, I've tried to drive on the left side in Brussels but I didn't like it..."

    Oh, well... I guess there will be some more jokes about Belgians from now on. And possibly other nationalities will start to make fun of them because of this decision...

     

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  6.  
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    tebee (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:36am

    Well if I was Google, which sadly I'm not, I would just add something to the search results so that every time people searched for something that would have resulted in a link to these sites said " we have found additional links that would probably be of interest to you, but due to the court action of Copiepresse are unable to display them". A bit like they do now for DMCA takedowns.

    I'm sure eventually Copiepresse will get fed up replying to people asking why they are so stupid, who knows, maybe they will even see the errors of their ways.

     

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  7.  
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    Call me Al, May 9th, 2011 @ 3:37am

    I just don't get it. Why wouldn't they want Google linking to their pages and driving traffic to them?

    I can only think of two possibilities:

    1) They have rubbish paywalls and people can bypass them through a Google search.

    2) They think that by doing this people will be forced to travel to the newspaper website directly in order to get their Belgian news.

    Neither of which is a particularly appealing option.

     

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  8.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 3:46am

    >>robots.txt ?

    Robots.txt is a relatively simple text file that the site owner can use to tell Google or other text crawlers not to index the website. It can also be used to tell web crawlers how to optimally crawl the site. It is a well known technique among site administrators. It has been around since the earliest days of the web.

    When newspapers complain about Google indexing their website it is usually entertaining to look at their robots.text file because it is almost always set up to tell Google explicitly how to index their site.

    Generally you can look at the file by just appending /robots.txt to the end of the URL.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    anony, May 9th, 2011 @ 3:47am

    Re: Call me Al

    I'm quite sure they don't want Google to stop linking to their pages, if they did they would have used robots.txt.
    What they want is for Google to continue to send them traffic, and to send them money...

     

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  10.  
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    That Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 4:06am

    but but but Google needs to do all of the hard work for us!

    One wonders if Belgium is all for ACTA, or if they recently had some laws proposed and paid for by the US Government.

    It is amazing the lengths every type on industry seems willing to go through to try to stave off any possibility of technology forcing them to adapt.

    But when you can just try to extract money from someone with deep pockets and the courts let you... why not?

     

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  11.  
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    NullOp, May 9th, 2011 @ 4:35am

    Belgium

    Payup cuz you sent us viewers. On what planet does that make sense?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 4:41am

    Re:

    There's that one about a judge who said that Google is guilty of copyright infringement for linking to some newspaper sites, despite the fact that those sites could use robots.txt to block Google from linking to them.

    It's hilarious*.

    .
    .
    .

    What? Why aren't you laughing? I guess you had to be there.




    * It's funny because it's true and, as we all know, true implies funny. Like those videos of people that fall off stairs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 4:56am

    Re: Belgium

    On what planet does that make sense?

    Planet Belgium, apparently, which must be made entirely of chocolate and obtuse rent-seekers.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 5:09am

    Wow, things like this make of wish I lived in Belgium. Just think of all the money I could make suing the phone company for infringing on my business by providing the address to my business in the phone book. Think of all the other cases you could sue for with a great ruling like this!

     

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  15.  
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    Mike C. (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 5:11am

    Boy are they going to be sorry...

    Consider this... how many users do you know that can't seem to comprehend the "address bar" in a browser. In other words, how many users do you know that will use a Google search to get to a known address?

    Tech: Okay, go to facebook.com
    User: *opens Google, searches for Facebook*
    Tech: What are you doing?
    User: Going to Facebook like you told me.
    Tech: Why not just type in the address?
    User: This is how I always do it.....
    Tech: *headslap*

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    StrongStyle81, May 9th, 2011 @ 5:28am

    None

    I...I just...the hell with it I'm just going to go bang my head in the wall for an hour. Maybe if I make myself stupid I'll be able to understand the newspaper industry.

     

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  17.  
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    MikeVx (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 5:38am

    To quote Zaphod...

    Belgium, man! Belgium!

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 5:45am

    Congratulations Poland. I think you just got knocked off the joke list.

    "A Belgian walks into a bar and says...."

     

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  19.  
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    Fushta, May 9th, 2011 @ 5:49am

    After the Fact...

    After the news[paper]s find out that no one can find them anymore (since they are de-listed from Google), will they beg Google to put that back on? Will they give back the money they'll win (if any)? Doubt it. I give them two weeks to figure out they made a monumental error in judgement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Jan Bilek (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 6:02am

    Is any commenter from Belgium here? I would like to know how other Belgian publishers/website owners react to this. If I had a business in Belgium I would be outraged by the decision that practically makes linking (without permission) illegal... creating SEO nightmare for every Belgian company - who is going to bother and ask for permission to give you some SEO love and link to your content?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    mrtraver (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 6:18am

    There; fixed it for them.

    Maybe Anonymous can hack into these newspapers' sites and and set up the robots.txt file for them, telling google and all other search engines to move along; nothing to see here.

     

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  22.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    - belgium doesnt actually exist. its a devious plot by france to convince the rest of the world that french is a regional language.
    ~someone out in the ether

    and dont forget, monty python had a few things to say about the belgians

     

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  23.  
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    harbingerofdoom (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 6:24am

    Re: Re: Belgium

    and waffles... dont forget the waffles!

     

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  24.  
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    Greg G (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 6:25am

    Screw the Belgian newspapers...

    ...they can die a slow, painful death.

    As long as Belgium keeps exporting their beers, I'm ok with their newspapers withering away.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Tod, May 9th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    Re: Boy are they going to be sorry...

    Using Google to go to a "known" site actually makes sense if you don't have a bookmark and don't want to get hit by a drive-by malware site by typing a URL incorrectly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    DannyB (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 7:02am

    Re:

    Include Copiepresse results as you normally would, but with links blocked. Or instead of blocking links, the link gives you text explaining:

    Google's search engine believes this link is relevant to your search request, but the owner of the page, Copiepresse doesn't want you to be able to find this page.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Duke (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 7:21am

    Reading the judgment....

    While I haven't read the judgment myself (it's in French, but available through here), it seems that the Court wasn't objecting to linking but to caching. The case isn't quite as ridiculous as it may seem, as Google's cache was apparently making paid-for articles available for free, through the cache.

    While Belgium probably has a copyright exception for reporting current events (I think it's in EU law), keeping a cache of paid-for news articles for a month was found to go too far.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    thinkI this, May 9th, 2011 @ 7:25am

    money

    Maybe they wanted money for the past links.

     

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  29.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 7:44am

    Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 7:45am

    Re: Re:

    nevermind, comment form mangled that URL

     

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  31.  
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    Ikarushka (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 7:47am

    I thought Franz Kafka was a Bohemian writer, not Belgian.

     

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  32.  
    icon
    el_segfaulto (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    Re:

    I believe one of the core universal truths that all nations share, is that each one has the dumbest people in the world. Reading the various court decisions in the U.S. makes me sad as well. Perhaps we can lease some land from our Canadian friends in the Yukon and ship all of our idiots there, think Hitchhiker's Guide.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Re: Boy are they going to be sorry...

    It's not uncommon that it's faster to type part of an URL into google and click on the result than to type in the full. Even facebook, your user typed 'facebook' + enter + 1 click, vs 'facebook.com' + enter. Saved four keypresses at the cost of one mouseclick. For a slow typist, that might be worth it.



    I still type 'aicn' into google, rather than typing 'aintitcool.com' into the addressbar, for instance. It's just faster, and I hate going into the bookmarks menu.

     

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  34.  
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    Thomas (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 9:16am

    google..

    should simply block access from Belgium.

    The newspapers are unclear on the concept. Without google, their traffic would drop a lot.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re:

    You assume other countries have free speech like the U.S.

    Sure, Google can send that message to U.S. citizens with no problems, but if it sends it to citizens in countries without similar free speech rights it could still get sued and lose.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    > Sure, Google can send that message to U.S.
    > citizens with no problems, but if it sends
    > it to citizens in countries without similar
    > free speech rights it could still get sued
    > and lose.

    Sued for what? Explaining to their customers that they're abiding by a valid Belgian court order?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're still thinking in terms of U.S. laws, where exercises of free speech are legal.

    I'm not saying that they shouldn't be allowed to explain this to their customers, I think that it makes sense that they should, I'm just saying that you're assuming that they have a legal system that makes sense. As the OP demonstrates, they clearly do not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Awesome!

    This is *awesome* news! Just think about how easy it will be to get rich now!

    1. Go to Belgium. (Not strictly necessary, but makes life simpler in the long run.)
    2. Start up web site/blog.
    3. Write stories criticizing Belgian courts and businesses.
    4. When these places link to you, sue them for copyright infringement.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    Nathan F (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 10:27am

    Re: Re: Boy are they going to be sorry...

    Did everyone forget the ctrl-enter shortcut in the address bar? That automagically appends .com on the end of whatever you typed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re:

    ... think Hitchhiker's Guide.

    Indeed. Now we know why "Belgium" is the worst word ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    ChimpBush McHitlerBurton, May 9th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re: newsPAPER

    I think it's important to realize that the Belgian papers don't want Google to stop linking to them. They just want Google to keep doing it AND pay them a bunch of money.

    If linking to a Belgian Newspaper is infringement, then isn't any linking to any website in Belgium just as infringing?

    Perhaps the entire country should go Googledark...

    CBMHB

    I

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    William, May 9th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Reading the judgment....

    Then their site is poorly configured and thus it's still their own bloody fault. You're saying it was configured to show only google 'paid' articles? Then I'll just change my mask to GoogleBot and get it all for free.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, May 9th, 2011 @ 7:01pm

    They Do Not Know How To Use The ...

    ... how you say, leetle grey cells.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Nom du Clavier (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 8:04pm

    Re: Re:

    At least those judges will have very clean telephones to use and complain about advertisements of moodily lit tubes of toothpaste... whilst having their hair done impeccably, of course.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    icon
    BearGriz72 (profile), May 9th, 2011 @ 8:16pm

    Re: Re: Boy are they going to be sorry...

    And people mess it up both ways...
    /headdesk

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    aw, May 9th, 2011 @ 8:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Boy are they going to be sorry...

    Wow, I have never even heard of that and I've been on computers since the 80's. Neat! Thanks for that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 9th, 2011 @ 9:35pm

    Re: Re: Call me Al

    What they want is to extort Google.

    You shouldn't be allowed to force someone to both provide you with a service and to pay you for providing you that service.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 10th, 2011 @ 5:48am

    Re: After the Fact...

    Google just needs to start building pages for these buffoons with properly targeted google ads that are used to pay the buffoons off. Heaven knows the newspapers will never figure this out.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Huph, May 10th, 2011 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Boy are they going to be sorry...

    I learned about the "ctrl+enter" command about two years ago and it changed my life. Combine it with "ctrl+L" (in Firefox) to highlight the address bar and it is game over for touching the mouse and for needless typing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    icon
    Niall (profile), May 12th, 2011 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    Sorry, this coming from a driver in Brussels, one of the scariest, most dangerous places to drive in Western Europe???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    mermaldad (profile), May 16th, 2011 @ 4:46pm

    If I ran a minor newspaper in Belgium...

    If I ran a minor newspaper in Belgium I would sign a deal with Google giving them a free license to link to (and cache) my website in accordance with my robots.txt file. The deal would also include paid advertising on Google.

    I bet you could beat out the majors and become the go-to news website in Belgium.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    Ben (profile), Jul 19th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re: After the Fact...

    It took them until July 19th. They really ARE stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    elev8, Jan 19th, 2012 @ 10:41pm

    I agree with the title, it does not mean that they are famous, they can do whatever they want like on key west rentals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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