Google Infringement Case Likely to Be Decided in January

Rhett Pardon
BRUSSELS — The judge in the Belgian copyright case against Google Inc. said she will deliver her verdict after the Christmas break.

The announcement coincided with Google’s settlement with two of five groups that seek to prevent Mountain View, Calif.-based Google from linking to Belgian newspaper articles.

The case is being looked at closely by numerous adult webmasters who, like the Belgian papers, say they are being infringed upon because the search engine giant displays their content without paying them or asking their permission.

What’s more, many webmasters complain that most search engines do not make it clear to searchers that the images they find are not public domain property, leaving images vulnerable to theft.

In a similar suit in the U.S., adult content publisher Norman Zada, who owns Perfect 10 magazine and its sister website, charges that Google’s Image Search violates U.S. copyright law because it allows the search engine and other companies to profit from the use of his content without permission. That case is currently before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In the Belgian case, Google failed to appear at an earlier court date that saw a judge order Google to remove newspaper content from its news index, threatening daily fines of $1.3 million until it complied with the ruling. A judge for the Tribunal des Referes in Brussels later agreed to give Google another hearing.

Attorneys for Copiepresse, which represents 17 newspapers, claimed Google hurt the rights of authors because it effectively gave away free archived articles they sell on a subscription basis.

But Google counsel accused the newspapers of protectionism, insisting the company hadn’t broken copyright law by showing headlines, a few lines of text and a link to the original story.

Google also has run into trouble in Scandinavia, where it launched several weeks ago. It delayed the introduction of the news service in Denmark after publishers there objected to having to opt out if they didn’t want their content displayed on Google’s website. Also, a publishing group in Norway has protested the use of its photographs, which it says is not permitted under Norwegian copyright law.