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Google refuses to post Belgian court's ruling

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc. refused to comply yesterday with a Belgian court decision that required the company to publish the original text of the ruling on its sites, calling that requirement ``unnecessary" and ``disproportionate."

Earlier this week, the Belgian Court of First Instance ordered the Internet search engine to stop publishing content from Belgian newspapers without permission or payment of fees. Local newspaper editors argued that Google's popular news site, which features small photos and excerpts from news reported elsewhere, steals traffic from individual newspapers' sites.

Google complied with the ruling, which threatened to impose daily fines of about $1.27 million against the Mountain View, Calif.-based company. Google is removing the Belgian newspapers from its indexes.

The court also demanded that Google post the original text of the ruling on its Belgian sites, Google.be and news.google.be. The court is scheduled to rule tomorrow on whether Google must publish the text or face fines of $634,000 per day.

Google spokesman Steven Langdon said he hopes both aspects of the ruling will be overturned.

``We believe that Google News is entirely lawful and brings real benefits to publisher by driving Web traffic -- and users -- to their sites. It is important to remember that we never show more than the headlines and a few snippets of text," Langdon said in an e-mail. ``If people want to read the entire story they have to click through to the newspaper's web site."

The company will continue to defy the court's requirement that Google post the judgment to Belgian sites, he said.

``We argued in court today that this was disproportionate and now, given all the publicity the case has received, unnecessary," Langdon wrote yesterday .

Google News, which debuted in 2002, scans thousands of news outlets and highlights the top stories under common categories such as world and sports. Many stories carry a small image along with the headline and the first sentence or two. Visitors can click on the headline to read the full story at the source website.

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