A lot of news companies grumble about news aggregators building businesses on the back of their content, without providing compensation. Belgian publishers have done something about it.
Through a rights management company called Copiepresse, which took on Google in a court case and won, Belgian newspapers have succeeded in preventing others from exploiting their content without providing financial compensation.
Margaret Boribon, the Secretary General of Copiepresse, calls it protecting the “fair value chain in the digital world.”
“Every content producer should receive fair remuneration for their efforts. It’s a very simple principle,” she says.
And while some publishers see Google as a collaborator, protecting content revenue is essential, Ms Boribon says.
“In the 20th century, there were two pillars of revenues for the press – circulation and advertising. In the 21st century, a third pillar is needed – licensing the re-use of newspaper content,” she says.
Copiepresse does not object to individuals sharing information. What it does object to is what Ms Boribon called “systematic and professional piracy.”
When Google announced it intended to establish a Google News in Belgium in 2006, Copiepresse put it on notice that it objected to the inclusion of its members' content without payment. When Google ignored the notice, Copiepresse sued.
Six years later – after failed negotiations, retaliation (Google removed Belgian newspapers from Search as well as Google News, restoring it only under threat of lawsuit) and appeals, Copiepresse won its case. Google has one more appeal, with an ultimate decision expected in 2013.