Monday, September 25, 2006
You may have read recently about Google being taken to court in Belgium. Whilst we aren't allowed to comment on the judgment itself, we thought you may want to know the facts of the case -- what actually happened, and when -- and the issues it raises.
In August Google was sued by an organization called Copiepresse, which represents a number of newspapers in Belgium. It argued that our search engine and news site breached these publications’ copyright.
In September a court ruled in favor of Copiepresse and ordered us to remove these publishers’ content from both Google. be and Google News. We did this within the time specified. The court also required Google to post its ruling to the home pages of Google.be and Google News Belgium.
Last week we asked the court to reconsider its decision and requested that the requirement to post the ruling on our home pages be suspended. The court on Friday 22nd September agreed to reconsider its ruling in November this year, but maintained the requirement that we must post the initial judgment to our home pages for five days or face a fine of 500,000 Euros a day.
As the case will be heard in November, we can only offer general comments on the larger issues it raises at the moment. Any legal discussion must be pursued in court. Nevertheless we do feel that this case raises important and complex issues. It goes to the heart of how search engines work: showing snippets of text and linking users to the websites where the information resides is what makes them so useful. And after all, it’s not just users that benefit from these links but publishers do too -- because we drive huge amounts of web traffic to their sites.
Of course, if publishers don’t want their websites to appear in search results (most do) the robots.txt standard (something that webmasters understand) enables them to prevent automatically the indexing of their content. It's nearly universally accepted and honoured by all reputable search engines.
Google News is no different than Google web search in this regard: We only ever show the headlines and a bit of text. If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the newspaper’s website. And if a newspaper does not want to be part of Google News we remove their content from our index –- all they have to do is ask.
We hope that this explanation helps, and will keep you posted about any developments.