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Google settles Belgian papers' copyright dispute

Coffee cups with Google logos are seen at the new Google office in Toronto, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
Coffee cups with Google logos are seen at the new Google office in Toronto, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google agreed on Thursday to help boost online revenues for a group of Belgian newspaper publishers and authors, settling a six-year dispute over copyright which it hopes will be a model for resolving similar clashes around the world.

Publishers have been trying to get Google to pay them for showing their online content in Web searches as more and more readers of the printed word defect to online media.

Under the Belgian deal Google said it will now collaborate with the Rossel Group, which owns leading dailies Le Soir and L'Echo, the IPM Group, which publishes La Libre Belgique, L'Avenir and with the authors to help them generate revenues from their online content.

"We have reached an agreement that ends all litigation. From now on Google and Belgian French-language publishers will partner on a broad range of business initiatives," Google said in a statement.

These include working with the publishers to ensure that readers pay for the news via paywalls and subscriptions and distributing content on smartphones and tablets. Google itself will not pay for the content on its services.

The publishers will decide which articles they want to charge. They will also be able to pull out of Google's web search and Google News whenever they want.

The case started in 2006 when the media firms took Google to a Belgian court, saying the search engine had infringed their copyright.

Google is also embroiled in similar disputes in other EU countries. Germany has proposed legislation to let publishers charge search engines for displaying newspaper articles. France and Italy are also lobbying for similar measures.

Google says its services drive traffic to publishers while its AdSense program, which allows companies to place banner advertisements on a website, pays $7 billion yearly to web publishers worldwide.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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