Belgian Press Win Landmark Content Ruling Against Google

16 February 2007

BRUSSELS: The President of the Court of First Authority in Brussels on Tuesday delivered a landmark judgement against planet-dominating US search engine Google.

In a case brought by local copyright management body Copiepresse on behalf of the nation's French and Flemish language newspapers, the judge ruled Google to have breached copyright law by reproducing articles and news items culled from Belgian titles.

The court upheld the existing injunction banning Google from reproducing news items but halved a previously imposed fine of €500,000 ($656.3k; £334.4k) per day for each transgression.

The Brussels ruling could prove significant for Google, in that it could be the first hairline crack in a legal dam that could eventually burst into a Niagara of media lawsuits worldwide.

Google unsurprisingly declared itself "disappointed" with the court's verdict, against which it intends to appeal. Copiepresse too was disgruntled that Google's potential fine had been halved - although pleased that the court had found in its favour.

The rights body hopes that an accommodation with Google can be reached. Says secretary-general Margaret Boribon: "The initial purpose [of the lawsuit] was to have a fair agreement."

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff