Belgian court orders Google to stop publishing news from local papers

A Belgian court has ordered Internet search company Google to stop publishing content from Belgian newspapers without permission or payment of fees, a Belgian press association, quoted by an Associated Press report, said.

The Belgian Association of Newspaper Editors, which handled copyright matters for the French- and German-speaking press in the country, lodged the complaint over Google News, a search service in which headlines, excerpts of stories and small versions of photographs were reproduced to refer visitors to full articles on newspaper sites, the report said.

The association said the Belgian Court of First Instance had threatened daily fines of $1.27 million in its ruling earlier this month, according to the report.

Margaret Boribon, secretary general of the association, was quoted by Associated Press as saying that individual newspapers would have to decide on fees for their articles separately, so it was not clear how much Google would owe Belgian newspapers for a day's content.

Google is currently defending a separate lawsuit filed in the US by Agence France-Presse, arguing that the service is protected under "fair use" provisions of the copyright law.

In the Belgian case, Google spokeswoman Rachel Whetstone said the news service was "entirely consistent" with copyright law and benefited news organizations by referring traffic to their sites, according to the report.