Google Pays Hefty Sum to Belgian Newspapers
January 14, 2013
For Google, much rests on the “fair use” of third-party content. It is what allows them to display excerpts from, and to link to, other sites without paying a slew of fees every time a user searches the Web with their search engine. It is no surprise, then, that they would frame their deal with Belgian newspapers as something other than compensation for content. Jeff John Roberts at paidContent examines the issue in “Did Google Pay Belgian Newspapers a $6M Copyright Fee? Sure Looks Like It.”
Newspapers in Belgium have for some time demanded copyright fees for each display of a link to or excerpt from their publications. A recent deal, wherein Google has ponied up about $6.5 million plus legal fees, has ended the dispute. The company is adamant that their payout is in no way compensation for content, but rather payment for advertising with those papers. What choice do they have, really? Legal cases set precedents. Take a moment to imagine the costs if Google had to pay every site that ever appeared on a Google results page. The article observes:
“On its face, this is not a bad deal for Google. Given the anti-American regulatory climate in Europe, the company had a weak hand to play. Paying $6 million to end the Belgian headache may be a good investment, especially as the company can still claim (technically at least) that it still does not pay copyright fees for newspaper excerpts.
“The danger, of course, is that the rest of Europe will soon be beating a path to Google’s door demanding similar payouts. As we’ve noted, France and Germany are already kicking up dust over the copyright issue too (so is Brazil).”
Yes, no matter how Google frames it, the settlement is bound to have repercussions down the road. Roberts, however, points out that Google’s fair-use argument is actually pretty strong. European papers, he says, would do better to place their focus on catching up with North America in the digitation process. Perhaps. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
Cynthia Murrell, January 14, 2013