Belgian newspapers accuse Google of 'spiteful' boycott

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Belgian newspapers that successfully fought against Google's inclusion of their articles in Google News are up in arms because Google is, er, blocking their articles from inclusion in search results.

The Copiepresse intellectual property consortium filed a lawsuit against Google back in 2006, claiming that by posting links to its members' articles in Google News, the company was violating their copyright.

The consortium won, and in May this year, an appeals court upheld the decision. Faced with a 25,000 euro fine for each infringement, Google removed the newspapers' articles from all its search results last week.

Now, though, the publishers are saying that's not what they meant at all. While they don't want their stories showing up on Google News, they say, they do very much want them to appear in search results.

They accuse Google of 'boycotting' them.

"The news editors do not oppose having their content referenced by the Google search engine, they refuse to have their informational content included in Google News," explains La Libre, helpfully, on its website.

"Doubtless, out of spite for having been convicted, Google has taken the opportunity to de-reference without notice all French-language [Belgian] newspapers on its search engine on the pretext that a new agreement was necessary."

Google spokesman William Echikson told AP that the terms of the court decision meant that Google had no choice, as the fines imposed by the court applied to Google search results just as much as to Google News.