Belgian authorities have made it abundantly clear to Google that they do not want the search engine giant linking to their online newspapers and news services. Google is not happy with that decision, and is making an appeal that will counter the action that Google has endured by being barred from appearing in the French newspapers.
Recently, Google resumed arguments for their case from an original February 2007 ruling that blocked the internet search provider from publishing its Google News links from its online news service in Belgian newspapers. The only newspaper sites that Google listed were the French language La Libre Belgique and Le Soir, the most-read, daily Brussels newspapers. Google is decidedly fighting the ruling so fervently because the outcome of the decision could ultimately decide the fate of all search engines and information referencing services in Europe.
What could it mean for the Internet and search engines?
However, linking articles in a news service garners no commercial benefit for Google, or any other search engine, because the news service is free. However, in a favorable ruling for the Belgian newspapers, they can claim that search engines are accessing and using their content without authorization. Per Greg Sterling, an Opus Research Analyst, if the European courts agree with this approach, newspapers can bring suit and receive compensation for this activity, thereby discouraging future search engines linking for fear of retribution. One lawyer representing Google, Erik Valgaeren, feels that a negative ruling puts at risk all referencing or searching services, or even cause them to disappear altogether.
The Belgian news industry sees a different aspect. Newspapers, both online and offline, are economically fueled by the income that’s generated through advertising. If the news information provided is essentially given away for “free,” newspapers stand to lose that potential revenue from ad sponsors since individuals won’t have to buy the news source.