Belgian Newspaper Alliance Sues Google for €49m Copyright Damages

29 May 2008

BRUSSELS: Internet Goliath Google has been subpoenaed to appear in September before a Brussels court that will decide a claim by the nation's newspapers for infringement of copyright. They seek damages of up to €49.2 million ($77.4m; £39.19m).

Copiepresse, a body representing Belgium's French and German-language titles, last year won a court ruling forcing Google to remove editorial content which appeared without permission on Google News and was then stored in its search engine cache.

The newspapers this week launched a follow-up legal action, demanding damages of up to €49.2m in lieu of lost copyright payments – with a provisional initial payment of €4m.

The extent of the newspapers' combined loss has been calculated by a professor at the University Libre de Bruxelles. It is based on the number of articles stored via Google Search since 2001 and on Google News since it launched in Belgium in 2006.

At the earlier hearing Google unsuccessfully argued that search engines drive traffic to publishers' websites; also that Google News shows only the headines plus a few lines of text and thumbnail images. Neither proposition impressed the court. 

Says a Google spieler: "We have not yet received anything from Copiepresse. We appealed the ruling of February 2007 and are awaiting the outcome of that case."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff