Belgian Newspapers Tell Google To Pay Up

A Google sign is posted at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., Thursday, April 19, 2007. Google is expected to report first-quarter earnings after the closing bell Thursday. AP

Belgian French-language newspapers said Tuesday they want search engine Google Inc. to pay up to $77 million in damages for publishing and storing their content without permission.

The newspaper copyright group Copiepresse said it had summoned Google to appear again before a Brussels court in September that will decide on their claim that they suffered damages of between $51.7 million and $77.5 million.

The group called on Google to pay a provisional amount of $6.3 million.

The world's largest search engine said it could not comment because it had not yet received the legal documents. Copiepresse said the May 22 summons would be delivered to Google's U.S. headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Last year Google lost a lawsuit filed by the newspapers that forced it to remove headlines and links to news stories posted on its Google News service and stored in its search engine's cache without the copyright owners' permission.

Copiepresse said in its summons that Google had violated Belgian copyright law by reproducing and publishing part of newspapers' stories and by storing the full versions of archived stories in its cached pages.

It said the losses were calculated by a professor at the University Libre de Bruxelles and damages should be based on articles stored via Google Search since April 13, 2001 and Google News since it launched in Belgium in 2006.

It suggested setting up a panel of Belgian experts to examine the figures if Google wanted to contest the case.

Copiepresse also wants Google to publish - without any commentary - a copy of the ruling against it on google.be and news.google.be for 20 days or pay a daily fine of $1.58 million.

The Brussels Court of First Instance ruled in February 2007 that Google could not call on exemptions to copyright law, such as claiming "fair use" for Google News' publication of press articles when it displays headlines, a few lines of text, photos and links to the original page.

The company claims its Google News service is "entirely legal."
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