Google's apparent inability to keep Agence France Presse (AFP) content out of its Google News service may cost it dearly if the French news agency wins its copyright violation lawsuit against the search engine giant, a lawyer for AFP said Tuesday.
Google pledged to rid Google News of AFP content a few days after AFP sued Google for copyright infringement in March of last year. However, IDG News Service found AFP content in Google News on Monday after doing a search for "Agence France Presse."
Google has declined to answer why, despite its stated intention, AFP content is still surfacing on Google News. The links to AFP-bylined stories found on the English and French versions of Google News were from recent days, including an article published by The New York Times this weekend.
AFP had been under the impression that its content had stopped appearing on Google News, and only realized it was still happening after it was pointed out in an IDG News Service story posted on Monday, said Joshua J. Kaufman, an attorney with Venable LLP in Washington, D.C. who is representing AFP.
What this means for AFP is that if it prevails in the pending lawsuit, the scope of infringement will be much wider than originally alleged, he said.
"AFP was unaware of Google's continued infringement but will of course seek damages for any infringements when the damage stage of the case comes before the court," Kaufman said.
The situation also raises the question of whether Google can truly prevent certain content from showing up on Google News, and thus comply with a court injunction if one were issued, he said.
The news agency wants the court to forbid Google from including its content in Google News. However, Google isn't currently under any court-mandated obligation to do so. AFP is also seeking to recover damages of at least $17.5 million from Google.
Neither a lawyer representing Google nor a Google spokesman responded to requests for comment on Tuesday.
In its lawsuit, AFP alleges copyright infringement over the inclusion in Google News of AFP content, such as text, thumbnails of photos and headlines linked to articles in external Web sites.
Google News is a news search service which aggregates links to online articles and accompanying photos from about 4,500 news outlets.
The case is being closely watched because it questions whether Google's indexing activities violate the copyright of featured news outlets. AFP contends that, like subscribers to its wire service, Google should pay licensing fees in order to show AFP content in Google News.
Google has said in the past that its policy is to exclude news outlets that don't want its content featured on Google News.
The AFP litigation continued Tuesday when Judge Gladys Kessler of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed to extend a series of deadlines in the case's discovery process.
Google faces a similar lawsuit from Perfect 10 Inc., an adult entertainment company, which is suing over the inclusion of thumbnail images of its photos in Google's image search service.