Belgians Waffle Online Copyright, Demand $75M From Google
The organization, Copiepresse, won a copyright lawsuit against Google in February 2007 on the theory that Google News displayed headlines, first sentences and photos without the newspapers' permission. Copiepresse, which represents French-language papers including Le Soir and La Derniere Heure, also alleged that Google Search violated members' copyrights by offering links to cache files of articles. Users could click on those links rather than pay for articles.
Copiepresse made its damage claim this week and is seeking a hearing in September.
Google said it had appealed the February 2007 ruling and that it will oppose the $75-plus million demand. "We strongly believe that Google News and Google web search are legal, and that we have not violated Copiepresse's copyright," spokesman Gabriel Stricker said Wednesday. "We consider that this new claim for damages is groundless and we intend to vigorously challenge it."
Several months before ruling against Google, the Belgian court ordered the company to remove the Copiepresse sites from its search engine and Google News. In February, the court said it would fine Google $32,500 a day for each day it violated the ruling, but Google said it had followed the order.
Regardless of the ultimate ruling in Belgium, some U.S. lawyers believe the case isn't likely to have an impact here. Jason Schultz, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said last year that U.S. courts are less inclined to find copyright infringement when companies like Google make it easier for consumers to retrieve information, because the First Amendment protects people's right to access information, as well as publishers' right to make fair use of content.