Google Bans Belgian Newspapers

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 18, 2011
Updated • Mar 22, 2012

Belgian newspapers have sued Google because of the company's incorporation of news articles and images in Google News. The newspapers claim that the search giant has no rights to post contents and links on their Google News service without payment or permission. A Belgian court decided that the newspapers were right. That meant for Google that the company would have to pay fines if contents would still appear on Google.

The court ruling may have backfired big time for the newspapers, as Google has begun to block articles and sites not only on Google News but also on Google Search. That's a serious blow to the suing newspapers considering that Google's market share in the Belgian search market is believed to be higher than 90%.

Belgian newspapers like the La Capitale are now stating that it was not their intention to get banned from Google Search. All they wanted to achieve was to either get paid to be included in Google News, or do not appear at all there.

Google on the other hand believes that the court's decision applies to all of their products, and that the company would face fines of 25,000 Euros if contents of one of the newspaper websites would appear in the search engine results, Google News or any other Google owned web property.

All banned Belgian newspapers are members of Copiepresse, a copyright management company. Websites like Alexa are already showing a downward trend for affected newspaper websites. While Alexa is not the most accurate tool when it comes to determining a website's traffic stats over time, it can be used to visualize trends.

The search traffic for the LaLibre site dropped from 12.7% on average for the last 30 days to 3.2% yesterday, which indicates a traffic decline of almost 10% because of the ban. It is likely that search engine traffic will drop further in the coming days.

Sudpresse, another Belgian newspaper shows a decline from 17.1% to 8.7% yesterday. It is fair to say that the ban will hurt the newspapers in the long run. Possible effects are less links from third party sites which correlates with less visitors from those sites. It is likely that the newspapers will see further decline in traffic over the coming months and years.

What is your take on this? Let me know in the comments.


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  1. chirag patel said on September 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    this is the news of 2007. This is very old news.. i am right ?

    1. mikethegeek said on September 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      It took 4 years for the courts to enact the ban, hence the 2011 article from a case that started in 2007, but it took maybe 3 or 4 days for Belgian papers to realize they had screwed up, and by the end of the following week they had signed papers amending the court order. However, this is old news now (Sept, 2011), it was resolved the week after the ban.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on September 9, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      No you are not.

  2. milithruldur said on July 20, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    To the Belgian Newspaper: Nothing hurts as much as something that bites you in the ass :)


  3. RooV said on July 19, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Well! I know I’m certainly going to lose sleep if I can’t Google for fast-breaking, world shaking, Belgian news updates! I mean c’mon…Belgium is such a *Player* in world affairs. ;-)

  4. mikethegeek said on July 19, 2011 at 2:25 am

    The newspapers could just have blocked Google, but they got their money and their day in court. It backfired. Maybe instead of trying to rewrite the internet to suit their business model they should fix their business model to match the internet. Google did, and see how they thrive. Time to take the paper out of newspapers and move forward folks.

  5. Markus said on July 19, 2011 at 1:07 am

    coming next – Google Bans Murdoch News Ltd Newspapers.

  6. Dan said on July 19, 2011 at 12:43 am

    Alas, this did not last. Google has re-indexed these newspaper websites again after complaints of “boycotts”. It seems they want their cake and eat it too.

  7. Simon B. said on July 19, 2011 at 12:31 am

    “could have easily blocked the Google News bot and still kept Google Search”
    May the Belgian news wither and disappear. Or discover that there’s a FAQ page about how to remove themselves from Google News. This is indeed an old news, but somehow those Belgian copyright trolls “Copiepresse” must have lived under a rock and failed to do any preliminary research, or even a simple phone-call, before trying to go the court way. Shame on Copiepresse for wasting court time!

  8. Amanda said on July 18, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    that’s awesome.

  9. SubgeniusD said on July 18, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Greedy old technophobes clinging to an obsolete model.

    Sympathize with the employees who will eventually suffer the consequences of their bosses’ stupidity.

  10. Crodol said on July 18, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Talk about tit-for-tat… Maybe it’s time for the Belgians to ban Google… For the moment countries are still more powerful than even Google. In a few years that might not be the case anymore.

    1. Brian said on July 19, 2011 at 4:10 am

      You want a country to censor the internet because a website follows through with a court order? Nice.

  11. Varun N said on July 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    If the articles are provided in Google News, nobody will bother to visit the newspaper’s website. So i don think they were wrong in asking Google not to put their content on Google News. Though not having the articles on Google News doesn’t mean that they cant have search results on Google Search. An article and a search result are totally unrelated. So this seems like a deliberate move by Google to ‘punish’ the company.

    1. Brian said on July 18, 2011 at 4:54 pm

      Google News does not publish the article, it publishes an excerpt from the article much like a search result does. The user still needs to click through the link to see the full article.

      If the newspapers don’t want any part of their contents showing up Google’s pages, that would have to include search results as well as news.

      1. Transcontinental said on July 18, 2011 at 6:20 pm

        Absolutely, it hardly an excerpt, more of a headline, in between perhaps. I mean, it’s an incentive, any reasonable media should understand that.

  12. Cassandra said on July 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    This has been discussed on other sites, but basically, as I understood it:
    – the sites complained because Google News crawled their site and incorporated their content, and then went to the courts
    – the courts told Google they could not link to these sites AT ALL
    – Google removed all links to these sites
    – the sites are now complaining because they cannot be found through Google Search anymore

    The very sad part is that these sites could have easily blocked the Google News bot and still kept Google Search because those two functions have a different user agent.

  13. Don G. said on July 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Reminds me of that old adage, “Be careful what you ask for …”

  14. KoalaBear said on July 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    This is not the news of 2007.

    Google did EXACTLY what the outcome of the verdict is. Remove the newspapers from Google News AND the Index.

    And after this they complaining that they are not searchable anymore :P

    What goes around comes around. My opinion is that this is funny. Also I understand the problem of the newspapers…

  15. Jeff said on July 18, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Google Pwnt :D

  16. MihirNaik.Com said on July 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I think, this is the news of 2007. This is very old.. Isn’t it?

  17. Roman ShaRP said on July 18, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Tim O’Reilly says: ‘The problem with writers isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.’ It may be hard to monetize fame, but it is impossible to monetize obscurity.”
    (read this from Cory Doctorow).

    They decided to choose obscurity, so they should blame themselves.

    I just hate to read people who insist on copyright claims as “right to read” like that. They are disgusting.

    1. Transcontinental said on July 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm

      Tim O’Reilly is darn right. Frankly, people like him prove that not everyone thinks with one’s feet. Frankly, that will teach them to use brains before crying and yelling. We had the same problem in France at one time, until the mass finally understood that Google News was the best thing which could happen to a media. Even if some media like here believe that their readers are so dumb that they take headlines for the news content.

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