Google in deal with Belgian newspapers

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Google has reached a partial agreement with a group of Belgian newspapers in a dispute that has called into question the way that it links to some European publications.

The company on Thursday re-instated direct access to the websites of several French and German language dailies through its search engines, amid a continuing copyright court dispute between the newspapers and Google.

Google’s move to reach accomodation with the newspaper coalition is significant because the company has had disagreements with other European media groups over links to their material.

Copiepresse, a media copyright organisation representing publications including Le Soir and La Libre Belgique, last year sued Google for copyright infringement for linking to their stories on its news service without permission.

A Belgian court ruled that Google could not show extracts from the papers on the news website and had to remove “cache” links, a decision that the company intends to appeal.

The agreement announced on Thursday means that web users will again be able to access directly the papers’ websites via Google.

However, the newspapers’ sites will not use the cache feature that automatically leads to archived pages. Copiepresse argues that this technical standard allows certain stored material to be available for free.

Google said that Thursday’s decision was made jointly with Copiepresse and that both parties would use a quiet period in the court dispute to search for ways to collaborate in the long-term.

The move by the newspapers raises questions about whether their websites had suffered as a result of a lack of presence on Google.

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