Yesterday we were reminded of Viacom’s $1 billion lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement. That case of course has yet to be determined. However, in Europe, a group of French-language Belgian newspapers previously won a copyright case against Google and are now moving to collect $77 million (€49m) in damages.
Google lost the underlying Belgian newspaper suit and was compelled to remove news stories on Google News, crawled without the newspapers’ permission. Google appealed the case.
I’m not able to fully comment on the differences between US and international copyright law; however it’s clear that the same case would never have succeeded in the US. It’s not entirely clear to me whether the case has automatic pan-European implications for Google News or whether this would be limited to the Belgian courts. My suspicion is that there are some EU-wide potential implications.
Google doesn’t want to negotiate and pay for the right to include content in Google News; that would undermine the model. The company also doesn’t want to concede that it doesn’t legally have the right to crawl and include the stories. However there was a deal — whose terms are still uncertain — negotiated with AP in the United States.
Google was also previously sued by Agence France-Presse (AFP) for copyright infringement. That case was factually different than the Belgian newspapers case and was settled, resulting in a licensing agreement between AFP and Google.
The Belgian case and these previous deals with AP and AFP may embolden other newspaper publishers around the world to sue or seek licensing deals themselves.