Google appeals Belgian news decision


BRUSSELS -- Google on Tuesday filed an appeal against a Belgian court's landmark February ruling that claimed the Internet giant broke copyright law by posting snippets from Belgian newspapers on its Google News site without permission.

The hearing is scheduled for July 17, when Google will ask an appeals court to overturn the decision by the Brussels Court of First Instance, which ordered the company to remove Belgian newspaper content from its search engine results and fined it up to €3.4 million ($4.6 million).

However, Google spokeswoman Rachel Whetstone said the company is still hoping to reach a long-term settlement with Copiepresse, the organization that manages copyright for Belgium's French- and German-language press.

"We want to keep open the option to appeal, and to do that, you have to lodge an appeal by a certain date," she said. "But we're also talking with Copiepresse about possible arrangements to settle this issue."

Copiepresse lodged the original complaint after Google News Belgium was launched earlier last year, scanning some 400 Belgian news sites.

In May, three months after the court ruling, Google and Copiepresse reached a tentative deal to allow copyrighted articles to be used by Google News. That deal allows Google to once again publish snippets and links to the articles in question, since the publishers are now using Google's "no archive" option. The "no archive" tag also stops Google from keeping stories in its files published more than a month before.

Google insists that its search services are legal and help Belgian newspapers by pushing millions of Internet surfers to their Web sites, thus helping to boost advertising revenue.

The Belgian copyright suit is not Google's only legal worry. Last year, the Associated Press attacked Google's practice of aggregating and displaying its content on its Web site without paying the newswire's fees. Google finally agreed to license the content, without admitting it had crossed any copyright lines.

And in April, news agency Agence France-Presse agreed to a licensing deal with Google, ending a long dispute -- and a $17.5 million lawsuit -- between the two over AFP's articles appearing on Google News.