On Thursday, Google launched its Belgian version of Google News. It comes in two languages: Dutch and French. Google's algorithms scan some 400 news sites, thereby selecting, ranking and grouping news stories. But the Belgian newspaper editors are unhappy. "All [Belgian] newspaper editors are unanimous: Google did not ask for permission. Some form of agreement will have to be reached", says Alex Fordyn, the secretary general of the Belgian Association of Newspaper Editors (ABEJ-BVDU). Apparently the newspaper editors want some financial compensation from Google.
Belgian newspapers reported the story, but they did not mention to their readers that Google News is not republishing entire articles. Google is only showing "snippets" or small quotes with deep links to the newspapers' websites. Belgian and Dutch law explicitly mention "the right to quote" ("citaatrecht" in Dutch), comparable to the "fair use" in American copyright law.
Some questions arise: if the newspaper editors don't want to be quoted and linked on Google News, maybe they also want to be excluded from the Google search index? In fact, the only differences between the Google index and Google news are the higher updating frequency and the the narrower focus of the latter.
Given that Google News drives traffic to many publisher web sites (some of which like the New York Times earn off Google's contextual ads program), biting the traffic hand that feeds them seems unlikely to me.
This week Google also launched its Chinese search engine. Google abides by Chinese censorship rules by filtering out politically sensitive content. Less well known is the fact that the French and German versions of Google are also subject to political filtering, banning sites advocating nazism and white supremacy.