Microsoft bows to the Belgians

Company agrees to remove links to articles from Belgian papers to avoid copyright lawsuit threatened by publishers.

Microsoft said on Friday it would remove links to articles in Belgian newspapers rather than be sued for copyright violation like Google was.

Microsoft received a cease and desist letter last week from Copiepresse, which represents French and German-language Belgian newspaper publishers, with complaints similar to a lawsuit the organization filed against Google and won. Copiepresse argues that posting article text violates copyright, even if the text is very short and the accompanying link drives traffic to the publisher Web site.

An appeals court upheld the ruling in the Google case last month and banned the search giant from reproducing snippets of items from Belgian newspapers on its Google News aggregation Web site.

Microsoft will remove all links to cached and non-cached articles from French and German-language Belgian newspapers from its Live Search engine and the news engine Newsbot, according to a statement issued in Belgium by the Redmond, Wash.-based company.

"Microsoft does not wish to enter into a legal debate with Copiepresse at this point and has decided to provisionally accommodate Copiepresse's request," the statement said. "Microsoft, however, underlines that these measures do not imply any acknowledgement or recognition of Copiepresse's rights and that it reserves all rights."

Microsoft is committed to having a dialogue with Copiepresse on the matter, the company added.

Google faces a similar copyright-related lawsuit over links to articles from Agence France-Presse articles.

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