Some Google Belgium Follow-Ups

Just a quick note that Google's posted on its official blog about the Google Belgian news issue that I've been covering, while William Slawski has a nice translation in the works on the ruling itself.

About the Google News case in Belgium from the Official Google Blog doesn't really provide much new information that you haven't already gotten in reports from me and others. What should it provide? How about answers to:

  • Exactly how did Google fail to react to the legal action before it went to trial? Information was sent to Google's headquarters in Belgium. If it had been acted upon, Google might have won in the first round of the case by actually presenting a defense, rather than being absent.
  • Why did Google initially refuse to post the ruling on the Google web sites in Belgium after last Friday's decision, then change its mind?

The post does stress that there are ways for publishers to easily stay out of Google. Those ways don't appear to have been presented to the court itself. Writes William Slawski in Belgian Copyright Ruling Against Google News:

I'm surprised by the lack of mentions of the use of a noarchive meta tag or noindex meta tags or by the use of robots.txt to disallow Google from indexing or archiving the pages of the newpapers in question.

While the Court does note that the onus of keeping copyright from being infringed falls upon the owner of the technology used to take text from the newspapers in question, this seems like an omission worth noting.

Regardless of how the Court may have felt about those options, I think that they should have been addressed in some manner. The failure to do so makes it appear that they either weren't provided information about those by their expert, or didn't understand them, or may not have addressed those issues on purpose.

A simple noarchive tag would have kept information on those pages from being cached by Google. A noindex tag or disallow directive should have kept their pages from being indexed at all by Google. Were they using these and Google ignored them? I suspect that they weren't.

After some more analysis, including an important argument over whether Google is a portal competing with newspapers or a search engine (answer, in my view, probably both depending on whether you keyword search Google News or read by browsing), he provides a long and what seems fairly complete English translation of the French-language ruling.

For more background on the case, see my prior posts: