Copiepresse, a copyright management company for Belgian newspapers, has had a long history of tension with Google. Now, after five years of conflict, Copiepresse and Google seem to have laid down their arms.
The Original Case and the “Boycott”
The case from Copiepresse, which began in 2006, claimed that Google had no right to use the online newspaper information in Google News without the express permission of the site owners. This decision, after five years of debate, was settled in favor of Copiepresse.
While the case saw many arguments, the reason Copiepresse won the ruling boiled down to this: Google News uses the content for its own purposes, often depriving news sites of control and the opportunity to display advertisements.
During the court case, Google had stopped showing the Copiepresse sites on the SERP and Google News site, causing more than a little resentment from the publications; they felt they were being punished for suing the company by having their sites removed from the main index. While Google reinstated the SERP results, after the case was decided in favor of Copiepresse earlier this month, the SERP entries again disappeared.
As the Associated Press reported, several Copiepresse publications viewed this as a “boycott.” Google, meanwhile, stated that they had no option but to remove the entries from the SERP.
The Mangled Court Order
Why, exactly? Because according to the court order Google received, they would receive a stiff penalty – 25,000 euros per violation – if they kept showing the results. According to a Google spokesperson, the company would be glad to reinstate the Copiepresse sites into the search engine as soon as they had official permission to do so.
It seems Google was being completely honest about both their willingness to cooperate and the court mandate. The court order, which began (according to Ars Technica), “WE, ALBERT II, KING OF THE BELGIANS, MAKE KNOWN TO ALL PRESENT AND FUTURE,” happened to include an additional sentiment: All the content had to be removed “from all their sites (Google News and ‘cache’ Google or any other name).”
After demonstrating this phrasing, Google seems to have received the necessary permissions from Copiepresse; the publications were back in the SERPs as of yesterday.
“We are delighted that Copiepresse has given us assurances that we can re-include their sites in our Google search index without court-ordered penalties,” said Jeannie Hornung, Google Communications Manager. “We never wanted to take their sites out of our index, but we needed to respect a court order until Copiepresse acted. We remain open to working in collaboration with Copiepresse members in the future.”