Belgian Newspapers Still Don't Get How Google News Is A Good Thing For Them

from the someday,-hopefully dept

The story of French-language Belgian newspapers’ lawsuit against Google has been going on for some time. Apparently they think they’re a giant TV network or record label or something, and say that Google should be paying them for “using” its content because it’s abusing their copyright by linking to their stories in Google News. The fact that they won their court case against Google was baffling, but the decision’s been reiterated by another court which heard the case again since Google showed up to defend itself this time, and the newspaper group has won an injunction blocking Google from indexing their sites. The publishers still don’t seem to realize that they’re hurting themselves, not Google. While Google would certainly like to index the sites as part of its mission to index, well, everything, it’s the sites themselves that will be hurt the most here, by cutting them off from a significant source of traffic. The newspapers have said again that what they really want is payment — but with Google not running ads on the News site, it’s hard to see how there’s really much revenue for it to share. While Google says it will appeal and will attempt to defend what it does — which certainly seems like fair use — it doesn’t seem like the Belgian newspapers will ever realize that being indexed in Google News is something beneficial, even if they’re not getting directly paid for it. Even if Google does eventually win the case, the cynic in us would certainly enjoy them leaving the Belgian papers out of their index afterwards, just to prove the point.

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Comments on “Belgian Newspapers Still Don't Get How Google News Is A Good Thing For Them”

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john caddidy says:

Belgian papers & Google

dudes, you just don’t get it, do you? the world is a lot different than the cacooned comfy place you imagine. then again, i think i know why you guys throw a shi* fit about this topic: since you don’t really report anything and depend upon newspapers for your fodder. wow, if the courts took that away, you’d really be up a creek w/o a paddle. LOL

erinol0 says:

Re: Belgian papers & Google

I’m sick and tired of these status quo content industries looking for litigation-backed handouts to support their worn out business models. I hope that they never get indexed again and that other search engines never index them either. Then we’ll see if they can keep afloat.

As for Techdirt, it doesn’t need the newspapers–no one holds a copyright on the truth (except Stephen Colbert ;-).

Jamie says:

Re: it's simple

“The newspapers have said again that what they really want is payment”

They won’t put up a robots.txt because this isn’t about keeping google from indexing. This is about getting google to pay them. If google never indexes their sites, then why would google ever even consider paying them.
The sad thing here is that it is obvious that the sites think google NEEDS them. So they think they can force google to pay them.

Harumph says:

Speaking of not getting it...

This isn’t about the site not wanting Google to index their pages and list them in search results. This is about them not wanting google to post their content on google pages without the end user having to visit the newspaper’s site and view their advertisements.
Without people viewing their advertisements these regional news services would not be able to provide the services that we are looking for.

JJ says:

No site should be required to have a robots.txt file to block search engines. Instead they should have robots.txt to allow search engines. There are so many stupid morons like the second post above that think it is a privilage for others to copy content.

Google might not have ads on their google news, but Google news is an advertising portal for Google. Google news is funded by google, which is funded by google advertisers. Google is definately profiting off of google news indirectly. It should be illegal for Google to copy other peoples content word for word without obtaining permission first.

erinol0 says:

Re: Re:

It’s not like the whole article is available–it’s only the first two or three lines. If a newspaper can deliver all of its content’s value in that maybe they should try a little harder.

Google delivers the first couple of lines in order to give the searcher an idea of whether they found the appropriate article or not. I believe that’s reasonable.

JW says:

Re: Re: No! Google provides a backdoor.

No, that’s just it! Google provides the whole article when only a few lines are freely available on the website.

On these sites, the first few days after an article is posted, it is freely available to everyone. At that time, Google visits the page and stores it in its cache.
After a week, the newspaper only allows you to view the first few lines of the article, the rest disappears. You can only view the rest of the article when you pay. This is normal, else the newspaper wouldn’t be earning any money.
However, Google still has that cached version. So, when you enter the URL of the article into Google, and click the “Cached” link, you can still read the whole article, without paying.

Google is in fact providing free copies of the article after the newspaper decided to let its users pay for it.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Re: No! Google provides a backdoor.

Oh, sorry I was misunderstanding – I didn’t think anybodies business model would be screwed up enough to offer current news for free but charge for old news, so was having a hard time understanding how the Googlebot was getting beyond a payment wall in the first place

I didn’t realise the wall wasn’t there originally

I don’t suppose the papers have tried adding the internationally standard line to their web pages:

<META NAME=”ROBOTS” CONTENT=”NOARCHIVE”> (tells all search engines that recognise robots.txt not to cache a page)

or if they just have a problem with Google:

<META NAME=”GOOGLEBOT” CONTENT=”NOARCHIVE”> (just tells Google not to cache a page)

Perhaps the papers involved should send their web designers on a course so they can implement their bosses crazy business models effectively without having to resort to suing people

Or perhaps it would make more sense for them to dictate to everyone else using the internet how we should do so in future, since we are obviously doing it all wrong

Thank god for Belgian newspapers otherwise I would have never known

Could they publish an article on how to suck eggs next as my Grandma could do with a lesson

Jamie says:

Re: Re:

“No site should be required to have a robots.txt file to block search engines.”

JJ, what part of publishing your site on the internet do you not get? They published their information on an unprotected open to the world website. If you don’t want your information on the web, DONT PUT IT THERE. Search engines, including Google news DO NOT COPY CONTENT. They only direct traffic towards that content. They DO copy snippets and provide summaries of that content to allow the users to make a decision about whether to go to the website that has that content.
Those summaries and snippets are nothing but free advertising for the website that was indexed. If the website isn’t getting enough traffic from those snippets to make money, then they should try to make those snippets and summaries on Google more common and more relevant. Trying to make Google pay for those snippets will only mean less traffic and less money for their site.

Again, as I said in an earlier post. It is clear this has nothing to do with keeping their content off of Google. if it did, then they would have done something about it. They just want a handout from Google because they think they can force it out of Google because they think Google needs them.

JJ says:


robots.txt is not advanced not to tell the search engine what copy to allow and what copy not to allow. When a search engine displays results, it only displays small sections, enough for someone to decide whether or not it is on the right track of what they are searching for.

Companies do not expect the search engine to replicate their whole site. The newspaper company pays a copywriter/journalist a lot of money to write the story and expects to make the money back through advertising. They can not make the money back if Google just repeats the stories completely.

Geoff says:

Well at least their beer is good

The Belgians and John Caddidy both seem to miss a major point here. Stupidity is not something you are born with, it’s something you acquire (usually following years of stupid pills).

Ban Google or any other source from publishing your content (unless they pay) and the world will end up on your competitor’s front door step, just waiting to spend a buck or two (or a Euro or two in this case). Face the facts Mr. Belgian Newspaper Publisher-Dude….The internet and in particular Google is a whole lot larger than you are or ever will be, either join in or lose….it’s not pretty, it’s factual.

Ryan (profile) says:


JJ, your point fails to take into account the purpose of the internet.

The internet is about making information publically accessible.

Thus, it is safe to assume everything can be spidered unless explicity told not to.

If you don’t want others to view it, see it, or spider it… don’t put it on the internet.

It’s also not copying the whole article. It’s copying a snippet and linking. That’s fair use to me.

They’re making way more money by being included in Google news than they would by not being included… so your argument as to paying journalists doesn’t hold water either.

JJ says:

Re: Ryan dont be so closed minded


The purpose of the internet is not what you think it is. You are very closed minded and ignorant. There are hundreds of reasons to put up a webpage, not just the reason you mention. Yes some people use the internet to make information publiclly accessible, but others use it as other means/channels of communication and advertising.

The internet is as much an advertising channel as the radio and television. PBS does not have the right to rebroadcast an episode of “Friends” even though it was broadcast on a public broadcast station. This is exactly the same thing. PBS can direct people to channel 5 to watch friends, but it does not have the right to rebroadcast friends without paying for the right.

A publisher may want his documents to be accessible to the public as long as they visit his site. It does not give anyone else permission to share that information.

Enrico Suarve says:

Re: Re: Ryan dont be so closed minded

Cool – name calling and everything…

I would agree with Ryan – the original purpose of the internet was to make information freely available (and has been since the days of ARPANET). It has always been widely understood that if you want to restrict access to something on the internet it is up to you to put in place protections or to place it somewhere else

The basic understanding of the internet is that if it is possible to freely access work it is legal to freely access it. If I put up a site and allow unrestricted access to it I cannot complain when you look at it, and I also cannot complain if you then tell someone about it (the car analogy in post #17 is perfect)

If this work is copyrighted and I make this clear I can however complain if you republish it in its entirety or plagiarise it

Presenting small snippets to people with information and assistance to go see the whole article at its original location is neither

Incidentally I am just guessing, but somehow the same newspapers usage of Google screenshots and the Google logo in their articles is somehow fair use? Just curious since I found them here, here, here, here and finally here

I can actually see some of the paper’s point as their gratuitous use of overlaid popups, flashing banners and other amazingly intrusive advertisement I just experienced would indeed encourage me to read only one line and not bother with the actual papers, although I think that says more about their websites than Google

Finally regarding the implied suggestion that because of this all sites should opt-into search engines rather than out is amazingly arrogant on their part. Newspapers came extremely late to the internet in general (show me one of these papers that was publishing to the internet before 1997), what right do they have to tell Google (and by extension me) that we should change the way we work? I happen to like the fact that I don’t have to fill in forms and jump through hoops to get basically listed in Google, Yahoo et all. Opt in would not only start to make the internet back into an un-navigable mess, but would more than likely create conditions which would render the extremely useful (and mainly fair) page ranking systems useless, almost certainly giving the edge by default to private companies and corporations

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re: Ryan dont be so closed minded

Yes some people use the internet to make information publiclly accessible, but others use it as other means/channels of communication and advertising.

Huh? Advertising is a form of communication to draw public attention to goods and services.

PBS can direct people to channel 5 to watch friends, but it does not have the right to rebroadcast friends without paying for the right.

Google directs people to the original story at the originating web site. At most, Google provides a snippet for the most current article/story. Usually this snippet is the first paragraph of the story. You cannot read the entire story in Google News. Google is not copying or ‘rebroadcasting’ an article or story.

A publisher may want his documents to be accessible to the public as long as they visit his site. It does not give anyone else permission to share that information.

Again, huh? Your statement makes no sense. First, every link on the Google News page links back to the original article. Second, are you saying that I am not allowed to tell my wife about a story I read in a newspaper or magazine?

You really need to open your mind by visiting Google News at

Neal says:

Google needs

Google needs to announce a change in policy. They should decide that NO news site will be included in Google News unless that news site has explicitly requested inclusion under Google’s TOS, which includes a six month delay from request to inclusion. That policy should be announced tomorrow and should take effect by year’s end.

Smart papers and news organizations will sign up by mid year, not so smart ones will wait a little longer and lose some edge to competition. The dumb ones won’t sign up at all until that date comes and all Google driven traffic to their site ceases – then their competitors will have an automatic six months competitive edge.

publius says:


Sorry for the second post, I just saw this…

You are correct when you say that putting up robot.txt to block indexers is an ex post manifestation of property rights. Normally we assume property to belong to the owner and all the rights are inherently manifest. Instead in this case the rights need to be ennumerated before they are effective. Its kind of like saying its ok to steal a car until the owner tells you its not ok. However the point of this article is that Google brings exposure and readership to this newspaper that they cannot hope reproduce with their own capital. Kind of a quid pro quo in the virtual market place. They have every right to opt out, but they do so at their own detriment.

Jamie says:

Re: RE: JJ

@ publius
“Its kind of like saying its ok to steal a car until the owner tells you its not ok.”

No, you have it completley wrong. No one is advocating that Google steal the content.

Let’s take your car analogy. What Google is doing is equivalent to taking a picture of that car. They did not take the car itself (you retain all copyright and licensing rights). All they have done is take a picture of the car and told people about it. They also encouraged people to go see it. It’s your car and you have every right to not want people to take pictures of it. But if you park it on a public street, you cannot stop people from taking those pictures and showing them to their neighbors or friends. If you don’t want pictures taken of your car, then don’t park it on the street. Keep it in the garage. That seems pretty fair to me, but Google wants to be nice. So Google says, that if you don’t want to keep the car in the garage, all you have to do is put a sign on the car (called robots.txt) and Google won’t take pictures.

The fact that Google makes money off of this system, and doesn’t give you any of it, has nothing to do with it. Again, if you don’t want Google to take pictures, don’t park the car on the street.

Joe Smith says:

Giv'em what they want

If the Belgian courts say that it is illegal for Google to display brief extracts from material found on the web with links to the source then that applies to all content, not just newspapers.

Google should simply have deleted all of Belgium from its search engine. It is not as though Belgium disaappearing from cyberspace is any more a loss for the rest of the world than if the real country disappeared off the face of the earth.

The irony here is that there is a whole industry dedicated to trying to structure websites so that Google will index it and display extracts to searchers.

Jebusken says:

opt-in leads to oligopoly

The most important thing that the people who favor “opt-in” (instead of the current opt-out) for search eninges forget is that it’ll stop competition (and thus innovation) and create an oligopoly of the current powerhouses (google, yahoo, etc). Cause with an opt-in method people will have to choose which search engine bots they’ll let on to their sites, so they’ll all choose google, yahoo, etc. Since those are the brands they know…

But what happens if some new genius wants to create a better search engine “site”? How the hell is he/she going to get sites to opt-in? By spamming people with the text “Please opt-in to my new search engine which currently lists 0 sites and 0 people use”? Give me a break, opt-in will make it impossible to launch a better google. And will only protect the status quo.

Solo says:

Being Belgian does not help me understand. You want payment because I link to you? You should pay me!

See, everyone and their dog is agonizing over their logs to see when the googlebot has passed and there is a whole industry of “SEO” (read: help my ranking in Google) out there to help!

And those idiots want payment from Google?

And the judges agree? Did I stumble in the wrong century? This may have been acceptable 10 years ago, but really, this is 2007! Is there anyone there understanding the principles behind the Internet?


martin says:

it's about the cache

This article from wired news seems to suggest that the Belguim paperes were annoyed that the google cache was allowing people to view articles that had since been put behind a payment wall. If this is the case then google was republishing copyrighted content. It seems silly that the papers decided to sue google to have their links removed rather than asking them not to cache articles that they wanted to charge for.


JW says:

About the car analogy.

You guys say the car analogy is wrong. However, you should compare it to a book, or a song.

If I make a song, I also don’t have to say “Don’t copy this song without permission, please?” at the end of the song, do I? The song is automatically under copyright, and it’s only when I don’t want to be as restrictive as the default copyright I have to notify about my rules.
So, these newspapers shouldn’t be adding any note that the articles aren’t freely re-distributable, as this is already covered in the default copyright.

So while you say that the internet is about making this publically available, that doesn’t mean everything on the internet should be in the public domain. If you write a long text on your website, you also wouldn’t want everyone to copy it, do you? Or when some band puts their latest song on their website to listen to, that also doesn’t mean I can simply download it, put it on a CD, and sell it to everyone. They have a point.

Oh, and one additional remark: let’s not convert this into a Belgium vs. U.S. debate, please. The U.S. copyright law is pretty restrictive too, and the RIAA doesn’t mind sueing one person more because they illegally downloaded a song. This is about organisations and companies, not about whole nations.

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