Court stops Google reproducing Belgian press

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One of Google's most popular services came under threat yesterday when a court banned the search engine from reproducing articles from Belgian newspapers and opened the door to similar challenges elsewhere in Europe.

Yesterday's ruling upheld an existing injunction made last year barring the use of the material, though the Belgian judge reduced potential fines against the California-based firm.

The decision was a blow to Google and underlines the growing number of legal questions over intellectual property rights thrown up by the internet revolution.

The case was taken by Copiepresse, which manages copyrights for Belgium's French- and German-language newspapers including La Libre Belgique and Le Soir. It has also demanded that the French division of the internet portal Yahoo stop displaying Belgian press reports unless payments are made.

After the judgment, Philippe Nothomb, vice president of Copiepresse, said: "We do not want any triumphalism, copyright has been confirmed." Google said it was disappointed by the decision and plans to appeal.

However, the firm could face similar challenges in other countries, with Italy and Austria both thought to be a possibility. Google has already faced a complaint in the US from Agence France Presse and postponed the launch of a Google news service in Danish.