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Report: Belgian publishers demand up to $77 million from Google

Search giant says it intends to fight new claims that it owes newspaper publishers a hefty damage award related to copyright lawsuit still being appealed.

Editor's note: Updated on Wednesday at 5:58 a.m. PDT to add information from Copiepresse.

A group representing Belgian newspaper publishers is demanding that Google pay it up to $49 million euros--some $77 million--in damages related to a lawsuit alleging the search giant linked to and cached their news stories in violation of copyright law.

According to an Tuesday, the group, called Copiepresse, said it has sent a legal summons to Google asking that the company appear in court in September to decide whether it should be forced to pay Copiepresse between 32.8 million euros and 49.2 million euros. The group also requested 4 million euros as "provisional" payment, the AP said.

Google has already with Copiepresse, which has argued that Google had violated copyright law by failing to secure permission before using headlines and snippets of Belgian French- and German-language newspaper articles in its Google News aggregation service and by providing links to cached copies of the articles in the search results on its Belgium search engine.

Google, which has challenged that ruling, said on Tuesday that it had not yet received the new Copiepresse legal summons and that it still awaits the outcome of its appeal.

"We strongly believe that Google News and Google Web search are legal, and that we have not violated Copiepresse's copyright," said Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker. "This is why we are appealing the February 2007 ruling. We consider that this new claim for damages is groundless, and we intend to vigorously challenge it."

Stricker declined to provide further details about the status of the lawsuit.

Copiepresse and Google had been in talks after the February 2007 ruling about how to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Last May, Google reportedly began reinstating links to Belgian newspaper sites in its main search results as a result of some of those negotiations.

A Copiepresse representative reached by e-mail told CNET early Wednesday that the new legal action occurred because the two entities could not find an agreement, so the negotiation period ended, and the judicial process resumed.

Buzz about possible fines against the search giant, however, is not new. In November 2006, just after an initial court ruling against Google, there were reports that Copiepresse was seeking some 34 million euros in fines, though Google promptly denied that was the case.

Copiepresse has feuded in the past with other Web companies, .