Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

How Dare Google Send Belgian News Sites Traffic! Court Orders Them To Stop

from the not-getting-it dept

The issue of the legality of "deep linking" has gone on for many years -- and while we had hoped that, by now, people would realize why there should be nothing wrong with linking to any other page on the internet, it seems that's not the case. For some reason, the idea that having someone link to your news article is a good thing has been particularly difficult for certain Europeans to grasp. Denmark had a court case ruling deep linking illegal as did Germany, leading some to believe that linking to a website other than the front page was illegal throughout Europe. While a German court eventually overturned the ruling, it was Agence France Presse (AFP) that eventually sued Google News for brazenly daring to send traffic to their news articles.

The latest such story also comes out of Europe. InsideGoogle point us to a court order in Belgium, demanding that Google remove all French and German language Belgium news stories from both Google News and regular Google's cache. As InsideGoogle notes, the court also demands that Google put up the entire text of the ruling without any commentary -- or face an additional fine. Reading through the details of the actual case, it's not entirely clear if the plaintiff really represents all French and German news publications in Belgium, but it's possible. However, the court's understanding of how Google works also seems a bit off, claiming that the mere scanning of news sites is in clear violation of copyright and damaging to the sites. Its reasoning is that Google News is actually a portal, rather than a search engine, and thus is impacting ad revenue. This ignores, of course, that Google News shows barely an excerpt of the story and sends plenty of people clicking through those links to the original news story. The court also seems to confuse Google's regular "cache" with Google News at points, never noting that Google does not offer cached versions on its News site. Either way, it's not clear how Google has responded, or how they will respond. A quick look at Google's site in Belgium shows that the text of the order is not currently present, though, from what little I can understand, it certainly looks like the press coverage of the story itself is all over the Belgian Google News.

In the meantime, though, you have to wonder if all the Belgian publications that are now facing removal from Google News and Google cache are all that happy that one of their best lead generators will now be banned. Remember, when the AFP was removed from Google News, a number of its partners were pissed off at all the traffic they lost. One of these days, perhaps, both courts and publishers will learn that having someone link to you is a good thing, especially when it's a site that people go to in order to look for exactly the type of content you produce.

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  1. identicon
    JosJef, 25 Sep 2006 @ 4:41am

    Re: Google law suite, a french conspiracy

    I don't know where on earth you live, but the most common and official language in Belgium is ... Dutch!

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