Google has now put out an extensive statement on its blog. Here’s an excerpt:
Here’s a quick summary of the case: Copiepresse represents a number of newspapers in Belgium. It sued Google last August claiming that our search engine and news site breached these publications’ copyright. In September, the court ruled in favor of Copiepresse, ordering us to remove these publishers’ content from both Google.be and Google News. We complied with that order and also posted the ruling to both home pages.
Today’s ruling does not affect the current content of Google News because the websites represented by Copiepresse have already been removed from Google News. In fact, hundreds of news publishers in Belgium and around the world are delighted to be included in Google News because it helps more people find their websites and read their articles. That’s why Google receives far more requests for inclusion than requests for removal.
Google will appeal, as they have said. If they lose, there are potential EU-wide implications. We’ll have to wait and see. But, for now, what’s really interesting is all the subtext of this case:
- Cultural differences/issues that may be contributing to the perception that Google is benefiting at the expense of the Belgian papers
- A desire to strike back at a perceived hegemonic American corporation. (The Internet is just the latest wave of American “cultural imperialism.”)
- A somewhat desperate effort to create more bargaining leverage and force Google to license content from the newspapers
Google news in Belgium is running content from wire services and so, apparently, hasn’t really suffered after having removed the disputed newspaper content last September. The newspapers on the other hand have likely lost traffic to their sites and will continue to do so as a result.
The newspapers are in a bit of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t position” here. They need to have their feeds included in Google News for the traffic but that also weakens any individual news site as a destination, as information is “commoditized.”
So what should they be doing? Including their feeds in Google, strengthening their own sites and potentially creating a separate, newspaper owned Belgian news aggregator/social news site.
Greg Jarboe at Search Engine Watch does a traffic analysis of the top news sites and asks why Google News gets so much “ink,” when it’s not the category leader? Answer: It’s part of Google.