Google has been forced to back down after a group of Belgian newspapers sued the company over its linking to stories on its Google news site. Google says it will appeal but has already removed all links to Belgian newspapers in the face of a $32,000 a day fine for each day it continues doing so.
The issue is one of sour grapes. Newspapers have seen their ad revenues and control of the media dry up as dynamic Internet companies like Google and Yahoo have become the de facto gatekeepers to information in the new world. In old Europe, where countries tend to have a rather insular viewpoint to begin with, this loss of control has rubbed the wrong way. Instead of viewing Google as a necessary (albeit uninvited) partner, able to drive significant traffic and eyeballs to their websites, they’d rather put up big walls around their garden and hope Belgians abandon the Google lawn party next door.
It will remain to be seen whether this approach works for them or not. Google is claiming fair use doctrine and says it will appeal, lawyers predict it will be the start of many more lawsuits against the Mountain View company over the issue.