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In 2006, a Belgian newspaper group, Copiepresse, sued Google. It claimed that the search engine was violating its copyrights in showing headlines and excerpts from its newspapers in Google News.
Google lost in court, but it may have won a small moral victory when it left those same newspapers crying 'Bloody Mary!' this week. The reason? They noticed that their websites were no longer appearing in Google search results.
Retaliation, perhaps? That's what Copiepresse initially screamed from the top of its lungs. But ironically, the exclusion of its newspaper sites from the Google index had absolutely nothing to do with an evil Google plan for revenge.
Instead, it was the result of the very lawsuit Copiepresse won. According to a statement issued by Google:
We never wanted to take [Copiepresse's] sites out of our index, but we needed to respect a court order until Copiepresse acted. We remain open to working in collaboration with Copiepresse members in the future.
That's right: the search engine removed Copiepresse-owned sites from its index because that's precisely what the legal victory required Google to do to avoid additional fines.
Not surprisingly, once Copiepresse was informed of this, it promptly sent Google a waiver permitting the search giant to reindex its sites for Google Search.
Hand, meet forehead.
The situation highlights the absurdity and hypocrisy of Copiepresse's position. In suing Google over the inclusion of its articles in Google News, which again consisted of headlines and excerpts (not full articles), the newspaper group was effectively arguing that it was violating its rights.
Yet when it comes to links to those sites from Google Search, which also contain headlines and excerpts, Copiepresse wants some Google traffic -- particularly after feeling the pain that comes with being dropped from the index.
At the end of the day, Copiepresse's nonsensical, childish have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too position may have impressed the Belgian courts, but they weren't fooling anybody else: publishers like Copiepresse may love to hate on Google publicly, but they need the search engine a lot more than it needs them.
Hopefully they'll remember that the next time they start to think that cutting off the nose to spite the face is a good idea.