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Google fines from Belgian ruling to kick in as soon as March 7

Google Inc.'s €25,000 ($33,000) daily fine in a Belgian copyright dispute will start building as early as next week when a group of newspaper publishers formally enters a judgment in the case.

The Brussels Court of First Instance last month ruled that Google, the world's most-used search engine, violated copyright law by publishing links to Belgian newspapers without permission. The newspapers will serve the judgment March 7, said Margaret Boribon, a spokeswoman for Copiepresse, the papers' copyright agency.  „The fines will have to be paid from the day Google is notified that the judgment's been served,” Boribon said yesterday. The Belgian papers filed the lawsuit to force Mountain View, California-based Google to remove links to their articles from the company's news service. The group has threatened similar actions against Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo! Inc. Google has said that it has removed the disputed links from its Belgian news service and that it would appeal the ruling. Google spokesman D-J Collins said by telephone that he didn't know when the company planned to appeal. The fine would continue to accrue during any appeal, said Benoit van Asbroeck, a Brussels lawyer who isn't involved in the case. Under Belgian law court judgments in civil cases aren't binding until one of the parties has „served” it. This means that one of the parties' bailiffs must get a copy of the ruling from the court and declare it's officially binding, said van Asbroeck, who works for the law firm Bird & Bird. The newspapers should complete that process by March 7, Boribon said. Google will have 30 days from that day to file its appeal or the February ruling will be final, said Bernard Magrez, the newspapers' lawyer who works at Eurothemis. Copiepresse, which represents 17 French- and German-language newspapers including La Libre Belgique, sued Google last year. Lawyers said the February decision may restrict how Internet sites in Europe link to newspaper content. (Bloomberg)