Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

After Copiepresse “Boycott,” Google Restores Search of News Sites

Google today stopped its so-called boycott of the Copiepresse newspapers (that had sued it) after they agreed not to enforce copyright infringement fines, but says it doesn’t plan to use such tactics as a matter of practice.

That’s the latest development in the long-running Google-Copiepresse copyright lawsuit — originally filed in 2006 — over the way newspaper content was handled by Google News.

After an appeals court in May upheld a Belgian court’s decision that Google violated Copiepresse copyright by including its newspapers’ stories in Google News, Google last week removed publications like La Capitale from both Google News and Google search in what the papers said was an act of retaliation.

But today, Google said it has gotten permission from Copiepresse to add its sites back to Google search results, and so it has.

The situation could have had far-reaching implications, by Google setting a precedent for excluding vertical content providers from search when they opted out of its more specialized services. Some wondered if providers like Yelp would be shut out of general search results for trying to limit Google’s use of their content in competing products like Google Places.

But Google today maintained that it wouldn’t be applying that pressure.

“It’s important to give Web masters control,” said Google spokesman Simon Morrison. “We wouldn’t demand that anyone include their content in any of our services at risk of being removed from search.”

Morrison said that Google removed Copiepresse from search results on Friday because, based on the latest ruling, it risked a fine of $25,000 per instance of copyright infringement.

Once Google received confirmation from Copiepresse that it would not enforce that penalty, and that it would also follow standard practices like robots.txt and metadata to exclude itself from crawling when desired, it restored the newspapers in search today, Morrison said.

Still, the whole situation seems a bit ominous, in that Google was willing to use the cutthroat tactic of removing the publications before they came to an agreement.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work