Belgian Publishers Seek $77m from Google

A newspaper group wants payment from the search giant for linking to and caching its news stories without permission. Copiepresse won a previous suit

A group representing Belgian newspaper publishers is demanding Google pay it up to €49m in damages related to a lawsuit alleging the search giant linked to and cached their news stories in violation of copyright law.

According to an Associated Press report Tuesday, the group, called Copiepresse, said it has sent a legal summons to Google asking that the company appear in court in September to decide whether it should be forced to pay Copiepresse between €32.8m and €49.2m. The group also requested €4m as "provisional" payment, the Associated Press said.

Google has already lost earlier rounds of a court dispute with Copiepresse, which has argued Google had violated copyright law by failing to secure permission before using headlines and snippets of Belgian French- and German-language newspaper articles in its Google News aggregation service, and by providing links to cached copies of the articles in the search results on its Belgium search engine.

Google, which has challenged that ruling, said yesterday that it had not received the new Copiepresse legal summons yet and still awaits the outcome of its appeal.

A Google spokesman said: "We strongly believe that Google News and Google Web search are legal, and that we have not violated Copiepresse's copyright. This is why we are appealing the February 2007 ruling. We consider that this new claim for damages is groundless, and we intend to vigorously challenge it."

The spokesman declined to provide further details about the status of the lawsuit. Copiepresse representatives could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.

It wasn't immediately clear what brought about the new damage award claims reported by the Associated Press. Copiepresse and Google had apparently been in talks after the February 2007 ruling about how to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Last May, Google reportedly began reinstating links to Belgian newspaper sites in its main search results as a result of some of those negotiations.

Discussion about possible fines against the search giant, however, is not new. Back in November 2006, just after an initial court ruling against Google, there were reports Copiepresse was seeking some €34m in fines, although Google promptly denied that was the case.

Copiepresse has feuded in the past with other web companies, reaching a settlement with Microsoft.

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