The Belgian Justice confirmed its original judgement by condemning Google News service to remove all articles citations from some French-speaking newspapers. The Google cache is also considered illegal in Belgium (see beginning of the story here).
In an interview with the “Echo” (Belgian) newspaper, Alain Strowel, lawyer specialised in authors’rights, said the judgement is correct but also raised several questions:
- What is exactly behind the word “cache”? If a cached document is still formatted as the original document, I understand it could be forbidden by the law. But I guess all the search engines are using indexes where they put all the words from any webpage (regular webpage or newspaper article: it’s just HTML). What about these indexes? If they are considered as a cache, then any webpages from these newspapers shouldn’t be indexed and they’ll then be unavailable. Since they also sued Yahoo! and MSN (with much less buzz), this will mean they won’t be visible on the internet, except if you directly type their URL. Is that what they want?
- Alain Strowel said this judgement can bring back the debate about the exceptions to authors’rights. Currently, the exceptions are those ones (in French). With all the so-called “laws against terrorism”, I fear this will mean a reduction of the number of exceptions.
- It’s difficult to obtain web statistics on these newspapers websites. A lot of people guessed the number of visits will go down but it’s the first time a journalist (the interviewer) said this number actually decreased (and the lawyer agreed).
Finally, this whole thing won’t make me change my opinion:
- If you want to play and publish on the internet, get to know its rules (robots.txt, no-cache HTML tag, …) and then you can complain if something is still wrong (they even don’t know how to correctly use the simple robots.txt file)
- Internet is open by nature: if you really don’t want something to be read, cited, copied, etc. don’t put it on the internet.
You can read an interesting point of view on ArsTechnica: “Google defeated in Belgian copyright case; everyone but Google loses“. And one of the newspapers’news editor is inviting people to discuss about on-line newspapers; it could be interesting 🙂