Newspapers Win Suit Against Google, Get Their Wish To Be Delisted, Then Complain

from the the-world-we-live-in dept

For years, we’ve been following the bizarre legal attack in Belgium of a bunch of newspapers against Google for daring to link to them without paying. It kicked off in 2006 with a lawsuit. At the time, we couldn’t believe that these newspapers seemed to actually be complaining that Google was giving them traffic, but that’s what they did. And, amazingly, earlier this year, they won the lawsuit, with a Belgian court telling Google to pay up for past links — and to remove all of those links.

So… you’d think the newspapers would be happy, right? Nope. David Muir points us to the news that they’re complaining about the “harsh retaliation” from Google dropping them from Google’s index.

So, let me get this straight. When Google links to them, it’s “theft.” But when they don’t link to them, it’s “harsh retaliation.” How does that work?

Of course, what it comes down to is that this is all about money. The newspapers just want Google to pay up, so they pretend they’re offended by the links, even though they know they need that traffic. So they sued, got their money… and are now suffering because Google won’t link to them any more (under direct orders from the court). Perhaps next time, they’ll think through the long term consequences of opting out of Google’s index…

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Companies: copiepresse, google

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Comments on “Newspapers Win Suit Against Google, Get Their Wish To Be Delisted, Then Complain”

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104 Comments
Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Probably not “already”. Online revenue still represents only a tiny fraction of most newspapers’ finances. But leaving Google definitely ensures that will never change and puts them in a very bad position for the future.

As a flip-flop like this demonstrates, they don’t actually have a problem with Google linking to them – they have a problem with Google making money. They see AdWords pulling in the big bucks that they used to pull in, get mad, and lash out – I doubt they could even explain what they hope to accomplish if asked. I suppose they subconsciously see advertising as a zero-sum game, which is a very silly outlook in the online arena where there is so much room for growth.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Google doesn’t post ads on their news page. They do however place ads on their search results. Compared to a newspaper ad, AdWords doesn’t pull in much in the way of revenue. The newspapers have gone from monopoly providers to small fish, in a very large pond, and inefficiencies have been removed from the system.

Even if these companies did get a percentage of googles adsense revenue it would not be enough to maintain them. The newspapers would need to shed most of their structure, buildings, printing presses, non writing staff, etc, to survive.

They are basically boned, they will never make a head first leap into this sort of world. So we are left with huff po, and thats going to go away now that AOL has gotten their life sucking claws into them.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Absolutely! People should not use themselves as a statistically significant sample size on the market share of anything. Just because YOU use Google, doesn’t mean everyone does.

Yahoo and Bing both hover around 15% of the search market:
http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Search-Engines/Google-Bing-Yahoo-Search-Share-Stays-Steady-ComScore-121350/

However, that article says they have held steady over the past quarter. But Bing is up from around 11% a year before. That’s some pretty good progress, and a non-insignificant share of the market.
http://www.btobonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100310/FREE/100319996/1089/FREE

Sure, Google still dominates, but your question indicates an lack of awareness that this is still a hotly contested, competitive market.

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah it is, per the article and the court order: “withdraw from all its sites (Google News and ?cached? Google, or under any name whatsoever)”. They asked to be removed from all of Google’s servers under any name whatsoever, which includes everything Google owns, including Google Translate. And that’s what Google did, in compliance with the court order.

So they’ve gotten exactly what they asked for, and are only now realizing it’s not what they really wanted. I feel no sorrow for them at all, this is all their own doing. (And it’s notable that Google didn’t remove them until after the Appeal’s court upheld the ruling, this wasn’t punitive on Google’s part, it was simple compliance with a bizarre court order. Punitive action would have been Google removing them before the court ruled.)

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Google indexes links, organizes them in useful ways depending on their content, and presents them to the user through a variety of useful interfaces.

So now you’re saying that, not only do these newspapers get to decide whether or not they are indexed, they also get to decide precisely how they are organized and presented? So basically, they get to control Google’s business… Why?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Google did exactl what it was ordered to do.

“withdraw from all its sites (Google News and ?cached? Google, or under any name whatsoever), all the articles, photographs and graphic representations from the Belgian publishers of the daily French- and German-speaking press, represented by the plaintiff, within 10 days of the present notification, under penalty of a daily fine of 1,000,000.00 EUROS per day of delay;”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It may not be what the newspaper asked for, but it IS what they courts ruled. The wording is pretty clear; their content can’t show up on any of Google’s properties. So, that’s exactly what they did; remove the site from all Google properties, including search and translation, along with all others.

They should have been more specific in what they asked for, especially since there was an initial ruling of a million (!!!) euros PER DAY penalty for not removing the content. I’d make damn sure none of their content was on my sites too with a penalty like that… if you sending them traffic upsets them, who knows what else might upset them?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yup, the content cannot show up – but that does not preclude it from being a “no cache” SERP. You don’t have to be in the google cache to be in the search results. What Google did was go beyond the court order (or they read it sideways) and remove them from everything Google in any fashion, in any way, at any time.

I wouldn’t be shocked if they are labelled as a bad neighbourhood, and hurt anyone that links to them.

RD says:

Re: Re:

“The issue is that the papers have not just been removed from Google News, but also removed from the SERPs. That isn’t what the newspapers asked for.”

Tough fucking shit. They want to play the “linking is THEFT!” card, then SUE over it, then WIN and think Google is going to take ANY chance whatsoever going through that again? If I got sued over something like that, I would get the hell out of the way and completely divorce myself from anything that even smelled like it might bring yet another lawsuit.

Nope, you copyright maximalists got your win, you get to live with the consequences now too. Dont want linking? Fine, you dont get ANY linking. What you dont get to do, after whining, threatening, suing and winning a court order to cease and desist, is whine EVEN MORE that the very action you sued for is now hurting you in some way.

Tough fucking shit.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re:

People get what is coming to them. Google tried to stop this from going through and in the end the newspapers got more than they had wanted. However I do not hold Google at fault, as everyone who replied to you said “They got exactly what they asked for”.

So tough, I hope this is a stepping stone from which other newspapers can see that this will hurt their business in the long run…

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If Google’s search engine has inferior results because they omit the best results, then people can switch to any of the competitors.

The competitors exist, have viable offerings, and there is no switching costs to go from Google to the others. There are very low barriers to entry for any new search company to launch a competing service.

Google has no market control, and no cause for regulation or interference. To be a monopoly requires barriers to entry for competitors, a lack of viable competitors, price control of supply. Google exhibits none of the above, and in fact, sells by auction. How can anyone claim a something is a monopoly when it sells by auction into an unrestricted market?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Not to mention many browsers and services default to other search engines.

For example if I type terms into the address bar of Firefox I get the Yahoo search page (I don’t remember if the search bar originally defaulted to Google or I had to change that one manually).

I’m assuming IE defaults to Bing (but I wouldn’t know as I have IE locked down).

Monopoly implies lack of choice, and you don’t have lack of choice if people have to/choose to actually go looking for your service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I think you’re getting too hung up on the word ‘monopoly’ to see the point. The point is, at 90% market share, there are absolutely European regulatory agencies that are going to get antsy if they perceive an abuse of said market-share. This incident could be perceived in such a way. So while in principle it is true that they can omit whoever they want doing so might rub the wrong people the wrong way. That’s not a good thing and it’s not even a very reasonable response but it’s reality.

JustSomeGuy says:

Re: Re: Legal obligation

Actual Google *does* have legal obligations. They cannot just do whatever they want. Their legal obligations, however, don’t extend to doing what the newspapers now want.

In fact, they’re required to specifically *not* do that, the learned judge said so, to the tune of a million-euro-per-day fine if they try.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But the law is the law! The judge said so and Goggle did so!

Everything was removed as directed, Belgium newspapers now exist on the only landlocked island known to man! They’ve accomplished the impossible, congratulations! By the way, isolation is a cold lonely place, but it was only brought to you at your request (ahem lawsuit).

On a side note that is oh so obviously related: How come when the law is in favor of content industries all we hear is “The law is the law!”? Regardless of how short sighted it may be, and despite how it is typically very one-sided in favor of content industries, or how a single song costs thousands of dollars in fines if you get it from the wrong site but is only 99 cents from the “correct” site, etc. The claim is repeatedly made ad nauseum as if you expect to hypnotize the world with your droning until everyone agrees with the content industries version of a one way legal system.

Here’s some breaking news for you – content that is unknown is destined to stay that way and unlikely to EVER make a profit. The internet dwarfs previous all previous communication tools and if the content industry thinks they will change it to suit their needs specifically then they will suffer the consequences as these Belgian newspapers are doing now.

Enjoy!

Paul says:

Advertising

The REAL source of ALL newspaper problems is that their entire business structure grew up around selling pages of advertising who’s response rate and therefore REAL value was completely unmeasureable.

Turns out that most newspaper advertising was massively over prices BS!

Google has an infinitely more measurable response rate and so no mater how the old business model cuts it… they are DEAD, whether they accept it or not. They’d be just as well off making buggy whips!

Manabi (profile) says:

Re: Charge the newspapers in question

Actually Google can’t relist them without being fined. The newspapers will have to get the court order removed before Google can list them again, something they don’t seem to realize what with claiming Google is retaliating against them, when Google’s simply doing what the court ordered it to do.

sehlat (profile) says:

Value Is Relative

What the newspapers forgot to ask, in their frenzy to bludgeon Google into “respecting” them, was “How much is the information (web pages) worth, and to whom?”

So they demanded, and got, a court order, requiring Google to remove their valuable web pages from Google’s indexes, link sets, etc.

Now they complain because they forgot to ask “How much is information worth IF NOBODY CAN FIND OUT ABOUT IT?”

Google provides an incredibly useful service, linking interested parties with information that is useful to those parties, and the ability to locate relevant information makes each indexed page more valuable in an overall sense.

Now they’re complaining that, as a direct result of their own actions and demands, their websites have suddenly become less valuable, because they have forbidden people to find them.

Does this count as karma?

out_of_the_blue says:

Interesting demonstration of the power of Google, no?

So now let’s extrapolate, just a tiny amount, to where Google is in control of much more advertising, and determining what you read too by way of that control. I suppose no one here sees ANY potential problem with having an advertising monopoly. — Probably because fed from Google’s gravy train, as Mike is. Far from being libertarian, when monopoly sends money your way, you’re for it. Google is just spreading bribes around until consolidated, then it’ll be different.

John Doe says:

Re: Interesting demonstration of the power of Google, no?

Google has about 2/3 of the search market share from one link I found and Bing has most of the rest so Google doesn’t not have a monopoly. Also, many people are finding content through other means such as social sites. So no, they aren’t a monopoly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Interesting demonstration of the power of Google, no?

Google doesn’t control what I read. Did they plant some sort of device in you that turns all words into gibberish unless it is approved by them? Did they plant a device in your computer that only allows it to go to webpages that are at the top of Google results?

No? Then they don’t control what you read either. Yes, they have power. Exaggerating that power isn’t helpful to anyone. If you don’t like the power they have then talk about their actual power and why you don’t think it is a good idea for them to have it. Plead your case to people. Don’t just say that they control the universe and everything in it.

–This post was brought to you by our new product, Google Shills. For the latest pro-Google stance, please visit our website at http://shills.google.com

Alien Bard says:

Re: Interesting demonstration of the power of Google, no?

Yes, that would be a problem and I expect that most of the people here would take issue with it if there was evidence suggesting this was happening. Fortunately that does not appear to be the case at this time, nor is there any indication that Google is attempting to create that situation. When and if that changes we can discuss the matter further.

Anonymous Coward says:

Was the judge being sneaky here and sticking a finger in the eyes of the newspapers when he ordered the removal of the newspapers from all of Google’s assets under penalty of 1 million euros a day?
After the court decision being upheld, if I were Google I would have removed everything related to the newspapers from my servers too.

Jimr (profile) says:

Yes it all about the money.
With out being able to link to them or find them in a search they may as well remove their site from the internet. They effectively de-listed themselves! HA HA!

It would be like putting trademark/copyright on your city name and then refusing it to be used by map making companies. After all those map making companies are money off you just because you are there.

I think this should hopefully server a good lesson for other newspapers. Mostly like not…

Onnala (profile) says:

Argument for Monopoly?

There has been a lot of push in the political field against Google by their competitors of late trying to basically state that they are a monopoly and need to be regulated. People rightly point out that Google is just a web page much like Bing and Yahoo are web pages. However no one really knows how valuable Google is when it comes to search, Google News, ect.

So my question is, could this court order removing specific newspapers from all their indexes, be used against Google? Showing just how devastating being removed from Google is?

This would seem to be a good example to follow sense they were not removed for abuse, spam, or down listed as irrelevant. So it removes a lot of other factors and gives you a better idea of how much being linked to from Google is worth.

Anonymous Coward says:

The newspapers shouldn’t have won the court case in the first place. (seriously, hasn’t anyone involved with the case heard about robots.txt?)

But I agree that this might be a clever move from the judge to discourage anyone anywhere for asking for the same treatment again. But I think it’s more likely that everyone involved (except maybe google) is just technologically inept.

Stephen (profile) says:

Belgium

Belgium.

Less offensive words have been created in the many languages of the galaxy, such as joojooflop, swut and Holy Zarquon’s Singing Fish.

The use of bad language can have unforseen circumstances. One example is the war between the G’gugvunts and the Vl’hurgs, caused by a casual remark made by Arthur Dent being mistaken as a terrible insult.

Simultaneous Babel Fish translation also means that any being can be rude to any other being without the need for extensive explanations. This has also started many wars.

The reason the Earth has been shunned for so long is also due to a language problem. On Earth, Belgium refers to a small country. Throughout the rest of the galaxy, Belgium is the most unspeakably rude word there is.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Google today stopped its so-called boycott"

http://allthingsd.com/20110718/after-copiepresse-boycott-google-restores-search-of-news-sites/

“Google today stopped its so-called boycott of the Copiepresse newspapers (that had sued it) after they agreed not to enforce copyright infringement fines, but says it doesn?t plan to use such tactics as a matter of practice.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Google today stopped its so-called boycott"

yup.. just checked… those .BE link farms are back in the Google index and with cached snippets too! πŸ™

booooo @Google.. they should have kept to the court order and not give in to these guys.

2 days ago these search results were EMPTY, now it’s a mountain of web spam in there:
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Adhnet.be
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Alalibre.be
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Alesoir.be
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Asudpresse.be
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Alecho.be
http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Agrenzecho.be

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Re: Re: "Google today stopped its so-called boycott"

“they should have kept to the court order and not give in to these guys.”

Not true. Google’s job of doing no evil, and just offering the best search results they can requires them to accept Copiepresse’s offer not to allow their stories in search results (but not Google News).

If I launch a search about news on the price of gems in Antwerp, Google’s role is to provide me with the best related stories.

This is further proof that there IS competition in Search, and that Google continues to compete to offer the best search tool they legally and economically can.

Google chose the high road, and this is a much better business decision than the alternative of “Nyah, nyah!” Besides, that point was already well established!

Anonymous Coward says:

they asked for it.

At the bottom of page 2 of the 2006 notice: http://images.chillingeffects.org/notices/5133.pdf

the court says (in french) to remove the data from “all their sites… any form of cache”. Since the index fits both those conditions, all Google could do was to dump the sites entirely.

even the 2011 court order is similar:
hxxp://www.copiepresse.be/pdf/Copiepresse5mai2011.pdf
(change hxxp to http for active url) middle of page 40, maintains the same order to remove all cached content.

Remember that even presenting a link to the site is a form of cache in itself since it caches the article title and the name of the paper.
Result: removal = nuke entire site, as ordered by the court. In summary, the judge let them have all the rope they wanted to hang themselves.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Re: they asked for it.

I don’t know if you read French. I do and what it says is not that they should remove “the data”. It specifies: “tous les articles, photographies, et representations graphiques”. This translates to “All articles, photos and graphical representations”. Links are not included. Now, Google does have a point that they could legitimately fear the snippet under the search result or even the link being the target of another lawsuit. (which is basically what they said) But it’s not the same thing as saying that the court specifically required that “all the data” be removed from its servers.

Claire Ryan (user link) says:

Re: Re: they asked for it.

Not to pick any nits here, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Google nuked the sites entirely because they were being cautious or wanted to prove a point. Do we actually know what’s involved in removing everything BUT the links from their servers, in such a way that they would be 100% sure that nothing left could be construed as articles, photos, or graphical representations to the court in question?

To be honest, this sounds more like they simply took the option that would be easiest to implement in the shortest possible time frame. When you’re looking at fines of silly-money-per-day if you don’t comply, it’s entirely possible to have no reason to putz around and literally no time to implement a solution other than the nuke.

Sucks for the newspapers, of course, but considering how technologically tone-deaf many courts are, Google’s actions are not surprising at all. I can’t imagine what a judge would think if Google had to explain why they hadn’t gotten rid of all the ‘content’ yet: “Sorry, we’re trying to make sure they’re still listed in our index – yes, we know you told us to remove all that stuff, it’s not the same thing, trust us – no, really, you don’t need to fine us…”

Yeah. Google ain’t that stupid.

(FYI – not an engineer herp derp)

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