Google has added links to Belgian newspapers back into its main Web search site after beginning talks with a group that had filed a copyright lawsuit over Google's practice of linking to French- and German-language Belgian newspapers.
The group, Copiepresse, sued Google more than a year ago alleging that the search giant's use of headlines and snippets of Belgian newspaper articles in its Google News aggregation service, and its practice of providing links to cached copies of the articles in its main Web search results, violated copyright. A Belgian court sided with Copiepresse last September, ordering Google to remove the links. The case was reheard and the court in February reaffirmed its earlier ruling but reduced the daily fine Google faces if it fails to heed the order. Late last year, Google settled with Belgian journalists and photographers, but not with Copiepresse, which represents the newspaper publishers.
In a joint statement, Google and Copiepresse said: "Internet users interested in Belgian news and users of Google's search engine may have noticed today that the websites of the Belgian French and German-language daily newspapers, members of Copiepresse, are again referenced on the search engine. This decision was made jointly by Google Inc. and Copiepresse as part of the constructive dialogue that has resumed between the two organizations. The websites of the Belgian French and German-language daily press will now appear without a 'cached' link in the search results of Google's search engine, thanks to their use of the 'noarchive' tag (a tool publishers can use to control how their Web site is referenced on the Web). The Belgian French and German-language daily press publishers and Google Inc. intend to use a quiet period in the court dispute to continue their efforts to identify tangible ways to collaborate in the long term."
Search engine expert Danny Sullivan wrote on his Search Engine Land blog that "the change means that the Belgian papers will now again begin receiving traffic from Google, something which they lost after suing to get out of Google News. That lawsuit resulted in them being taken not just out of Google News but Google entirely. The traffic drop had to have been painful. A new report from Hitwise shows that at least for the U.S., newspapers get 25 percent of their traffic from search engines."
The Belgian group isn't the first to cry foul over Google's use of news content. Last month, Paris-based news agency Agence France Press reached a licensing agreement to settle its copyright lawsuit against Google that allows Google to post AFP content, including news stories and photographs, on Google News, as well as on other Google services. Last August, Google announced a similar agreement with the Associated Press that allows it to use AP news and photos not in Google News, but in some new service that is under development.