Google Changes Mind, Posts Belgian Ruling

Google has now posted the text of a Belgian ruling finding it violated copyright
on the Google Belgium home page. The ruling
has also been posted to the home pages of
Google Images Belgium,
Google News Belgium
but not Google
Groups Belgium

Google Belgium Ruling

Last week, a court ruled Google had violated the copyright of several Belgium
newspapers by listing them within Google News. The court ordered the removal of
those papers from Google, which the company quickly complied with.

The court also ordered Google to post the ruling on its Belgian web site within
10 days or face a heavy fine. Google appealed that punishment, but it was upheld
last Friday.

Despite losing its appeal, Google looked ready to defy the order to post the
ruling and take the fines, until a second appeal could be heard in November.
Now, the company has reversed course. The ruling went up on Saturday. The
company gave no reason for the reversal to

A spokesperson for Google declined to elaborate on the reasons that made
the company change its mind but said it would seek to cancel the ruling.

“We are pleased that a judge has given Google the opportunity to appeal the
substance of this case. This will be heard in November,” the spokesperson

Dow Jones newswire:

Google spokeswoman Rachel Whetstone told Dow Jones Newswires the company
had agreed to publish the ruling on its Web site after studying the court

Technically, Google never failed to comply with the court ruling. It has 10 days
from receipt of the ruling to act, and it has done so within that time, saving
it exposure to fines. As noted, a second appeal on the ruling will happen in

Past coverage is below:

Also, I note that Microsoft’s Windows Live is now operating illegally under
Belgian law. For example,
shows how pages from Le
— one of the publications involved in the lawsuit against Google —
has pages listed in Windows Live, as well as cached pages. In fact, here’s an

of an article from Le Soir about the Belgian ruling against Google
that I can read at Windows Live through its cached copy. To date, no news that
Microsoft is about to be sued.

Finally, over at Threadwatch, an interesting
comment points
out that Google might have been OK in Belgium if it didn’t show cached copies of

The truly critical essence of this Belgian court ruling concerns Google’s
caching functionality. Here, protected content is being displayed a) in
modified form; b) more often than not in its entirety (i.e. not restricted to
mere snippets); and c) without copyright holders’ permission. In most
countries this would be viewed as a flagrant violation of copyright law – and
obviously this is the stance the Belgian court has adopted. (And yes, there’s
been a contrary ruling by a US court, but that specific case seems to be
rather more complicated on closer view; also, there’s some indication that it
was decided on arguably faulty assumptions, but that’s another story.)

It is interesting to note that the Belgian ruling specifically acknowledges
Google’s right to store third party content (no mean concession, that, and far
from self-evident) for search purposes only. But displaying it in the cache
for everyone to see constitutes an act of re-publication which, like it or
not, demands copyright holders’ express permission.

This is a very important point. Search engines make copies of pages in order to
make content searchable, as my
Indexing Versus
Caching & How Google Print Doesn’t Reprint
article explains in more detail.
It’s very difficult to argue this type of copying harms a site owner, especially
when opting out is so easy.

Showing these actual copies through cached pages has long been disturbing for
many people. While it’s easy to opt-out of such display, it feels a step beyond
what a content owner should have to do. With cached pages, content is literally
being reprinted rather than made searchable. It seems absurd for the content
owners to opt-out in that instance.

Within the US, cached copies has so far been
something I disagree with. But if Google were to eliminate them — along with
picture thumbnails — it sounds like it might have a better chance of winning in

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