Google is including links again to some of Belgium's most popular French and German-language newspapers, although their copyright lawsuit against the US search company remains pending.
Copiepresse, the publishing group representing Le Soir, Le Libre Belgique and other Belgian newspapers, decided that links could again be included in Google's search results page, but without links to cached versions of the content. The newspapers are using a "no archive" tagging tool that prevents Google's search engine from caching their web pages.
"The decision was made jointly by Google and Copiepresse as part of the constructive dialogue that has resumed between the two organisations," they said in a joint statement.
The development suggests a thawing of icy relations between the two sides in their ongoing copyright dispute. It applies only to Google's main search page, however, and does not include Google News, said Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell. The two sides will keep working to identify "tangible ways to collaborate in the long term", they said.
Copiepresse sued Google last August for copyright infringement, arguing that it profits unfairly by posting snippets of its members' news stories on Google's web sites without paying for their use. The newspapers objected to the way Google caches their web pages on its servers, making it hard for them to charge subscription fees for archived content.
Google has said its use of the content is fair and legal and that it benefits both internet users and publishers, by driving traffic to their web sites. Content providers can request to have their content removed from Google, and the Copiepresse lawsuit undermines how search engines must operate, Google has said.
A Belgian court sided with the publishing group in September, ordering Google to remove the Belgian web sites from its search engine, which it did. The court reaffirmed its decision in February and Google said it planned to appeal. Copiepresse has also been in talks with Yahoo and Microsoft's MSN division.
Google has not signed a licence to use the newspapers' content and maintains that linking to their sites is fair and legal, Powell said. The court case remains pending and Google still plans to appeal, she said. Margaret Boribon, the secretary general for Copiepresse, did not immediately return a call for comment.
The news agency Agence France-Presse filed a similar suit against Google two years ago in the US. The two sides resolved that dispute last year with a licensing agreement that allows Google to make extensive use of AFP's news and photos on its web sites.
Belgium has three official languages: French, German and Dutch. The Dutch-language papers have not protested Google's use of their content.