Google Inc. lost a copyright lawsuit Tuesday to Belgian newspapers that had demanded it remove headlines and links to news stories posted without their permission. The ruling, if confirmed, could set a precedent for how Web search engines link to copyrighted material in the tumultuous arena of online news.
The company behind the world's most-used search engine immediately said it would appeal, claiming its Google News service was "entirely legal" and the Belgian decision was a one-time result that would not be repeated elsewhere.
The Brussels Court of First Instance ruled that California-based Google could not call on exemptions, such as claiming "fair use" because it says it reviews press articles when it displays headlines, a few lines of text, photos and links to the original page.
"Google is reproducing and publishing works protected by copyright," it said. "Google cannot call on any exceptions set out by law relating to copyright or similar rights."
It decided in favor of Copiepresse, a copyright protection group representing 17 mostly French-language newspapers that complained the search engine's "cached" links offered free access to archived articles that the papers usually sell.