Google defends against newspaper complaints in Belgian court

A Belgian court will hear Google's defense against local newspaper complaints that it stole content from their Web sites without paying them or asking their permission, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said this will be the first time Google argues its case after the Brussels-based Court of First Instance ordered the company to remove Belgian French-language newspaper content from its news index, threatening daily fines of1 million euros ($1.28 million.)

Google failed to appear at an earlier hearing that led up to that ruling and asked for another opportunity to defend itself against the charges made by Copiepresse, a copyright protection group representing the country's French-language editors, the Associated Press report added.

Copiepresse had claimed that Google ignored its original requests to remove content. It said it had a much happier experience with Microsoft's MSN Belgian site, entering talks to find a solution, the report said.

Google's French- and Dutch-language Belgian news pages are now empty of much local content, largely containing reports from news agencies, news Web sites and foreign newspapers, the report said.

Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell said the company had complied with the ruling when it received it in mid-September, stripping out Belgian newspaper content from Google News and publishing the entire text of the judgment on its home page, the report further said.