After a court decision that ordered it to remove a group of Belgian newspapers from Google News search results, Google not only blocked the newspapers from its news site but also removed them from its main search index, the Associated Press reported. Google said that this was necessary to comply with the Belgian court's decision, All Things D reported. A consortium representing the newspapers claimed, however, that Google was retaliating against the newspapers over the copyright infringement suit.
The case started in 2006, when Copiepresse, a newspaper copyright management company, filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming that Google News had no right to post links to its members' content. The resulting ruling forced Google to remove links and snippets of French- and German-language Belgian newspapers from its news search. Google tried to overturn that ruling but was unsuccessful, Bloomberg reported in May.
As a result, Google didn't only block the sites from its news service but also from its main web search. AP reported Google as saying that the company had no choice as the court decision applied not only to Google News but also to Google index. In view of potential fines, the company removed Copiepresse's material from its index.
AP reported La Libre, one of Copiepresse's newspapers, saying that it is "necessary to distinguish the Google search engine from the Google news service". According to the newspaper, its editors do not want their informational content to be included in Google News but "do not oppose having their content referenced by the Google search engine". Currently, La Libre's website is not included in Google search results, and the site features an article that advises readers to type its URL directly onto their browsers instead of searching for the newspaper on Google.
This is far from being the first sign of friction in the relationship between Google and newspapers. Some news sites have claimed that Google News aggregates and benefits from their content, while Google has argued that Google News provides a valuable service to news sites by sending readers to original sources. Earlier, the Associated Press content stopped featuring on Google News after the agency decried that Google published entire articles without sufficiently compensating the news cooperation. The two companies updated their licensing deal later.
Interestingly, there have been some confusion over featuring publishers' content on Google's standard and news searches, as some Italian publishers claimed two years ago that asking to be removed from Google News would have excluded them from the web search as well. It seems clear that Google's news service and web search have different functions, which is why it would be unreasonable to lump the services together in this manner.
As for the affected Belgian newspapers, it is unlikely that they would settle for not appearing on Google searches as it would result in further traffic and revenue declines, as Search Engine Land pointed out. The arm wrestle between the search giant and newspapers continues.