GOOGLE NEWS COPYRIGHT CASE
When is a Search Engine not a Search Engine? When it’s a Publisher!
Google has just received a nasty shock in its attempt to change the copyright principle of „opt in‟ to „opt out‟.
A Belgian Court has recently ordered Goog
le to remove from its Google News service and from Google‟s cache
servers articles and photographs extracted from the daily French and German-speaking press published inBelgium. The Court decided that Google News was acting as an information portal (i.e. like a publisher) ratherthan as a mere search engine. As a result, it needed consent to use third party material in the same way as anyother re-publisher. By failing to obtain consent from the Belgian publishers, the Court decided that Googleinfringed the copyright and database right in the articles, photographs and other materials displayed on GoogleNews and stored in its cache.
The Court drew a distinction between Google‟s activities as a search engine and as a provider of information
Whilst both activities involve Google‟s search engine indexing and storing content, Google News
goes a step further by presenting automated news summaries to its users. To do that, the Court decided that itneeded permission. Amazingly, Google decided not to make a Court appearance so the injunction was granted without Google beingrepresented. In the face of a
fine of €1 million a day, Google has withdrawn the offending material. However, the
Judge also ordered Google to publish judgement on the Google News home page. At the time of writing, Googlehas not done this and has also lodged an appeal against the judgement.
Search engine v information portal
The judgement was delivered on 8
September 2006 by the Belgian Court of First Instance in Copiepresse vGoogle Inc. The decision follows a complaint brought by Copiepresse, a company which manages copyright forthe Belgian French and German-speaking press.There were several key factors which the Court considered were indicative of Google News acting outside thesp
here of a „mere‟ search engine.
It causes the newspaper publishers to lose control of their web sites and their content. Whilst Google News
links to an article on the newspaper publishers‟ servers, once the publishers remove an article it still remains
accessible on Google News via the link to the Google cache.
The appearance of automatically generated headlines on Google News means that users may avoid or by-pass the newspaper sites, resulting in a reduction of traffic and, therefore, loss of advertising revenue to thepublishers.
Google News „short
circuits‟ other protections for the publisher such
Access to the newspaper articles and other material via Google‟s cache results in other missed opportunities
for the newspaper, including reader registration and re-distribution rights.
Alarm bells in the US!
Google has faced similar actions in the US with mixed results. In Field v Google Inc, a lawyer owning copyright ina number of works filed for copyright infringement against Google for its use of cached links to these works. The
Court found in Google‟s favour. It
considered that the claimant had made his work freely available on the web