Way back in November I asked “Is Google’s multi-billion dollar free ride over?”
Google’s super profit margins are due, in part, to its shrewd, but not content owner friendly, business model by “fair use” and “safe harbor” (see “Google ’safe harbor’: ‘Nice’ way to do business?”)…
Google’s $150 billion market cap relies on selling ads against content it has not compensated rights holders for and that it has no explicit legal rights to use.
A Brussels court said Google violated copyright laws by publishing links to Belgian newspapers without permission and ordered the company to remove them, setting a precedent for future cases in Europe.
Google, the owner of the world's most-used search engine, must pay 25,000 euros ($32,500) a day until it removes all Belgian news content, the Brussels Court of First Instance ruled today. There's ``no exception'' for Google in copyright law, the court said.
The case may restrict how Internet sites in Europe link to newspaper content. Copiepresse, a group representing French- and German-language newspapers including La Libre Belgique and Le Soir, had sued Google for copyright infringement. The journals lose advertising revenue when Google uses snippets of articles and links directly to stories, bypassing ads on their Web sites, said Bruno Vandermeulen, a Brussels-based lawyer at Bird & Bird.
The court ordered Google to remove articles, photos and graphics ``from all its sites,'' including Google News and cached copies visible in search results.
Bernard Magrez, a lawyer for Copiepresse who works for Eurothemis, said the daily fine imposed against Google today is retroactive for 139 days, to when the search engine was first asked to remove the content.
Google will have to pay an additional 1,000 euros a day to other copyright groups, including SAJ, which represents journalists, if it fails to remove their content from its sites, the court ruled.
Yoram Elkaim, a lawyer for Google, said in Brussels today that the company was waiting for further clarification from the court about the fines.
Philippe Nothomb, head of legal affairs of Rossel et Cie., which owns Belgium's most-read French daily, Le Soir:
There's no animosity. We just don't want a win-lose situation.
WILL THE BELGIAN PRESS VICTORY OVER GOOGLE EMBOLDEN MORE WEB PUBLISHERS TO DEMAND PAYMENT FROM GOOGLE AS IT PROFITS OFF OF ITS USE OF THEIR CONTENT WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT?