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AP reported that Copiepresse, a copyright protection group that represents 17 French and German-language Belgian newspapers, asked Yahoo! to remove links that point to the newspapers’ content. At issue is whether a cached page (a copy of content that is hosted on a search engine’s server) constitutes copyright infringement.

Groklaw’s Sean Daly interviewed Margaret Boribon of Copiepresse back in October 2006 about a similarly themed lawsuit against Google. In the U.S., Google successfully defended against a similar claim. The judge found that Google was protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright act. In the E.U., the laws are not as clear in all member countries.

Meanwhile, the U.K. government opted not to back a change that extended greater legal protection to search engines. The decision will be left to a European Commission review later in 2007.

Regardless of the legal environment, some newspapers in the U.K. actually find search engines a valuable source of new consumers. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, The Daily Telegraph and others are bidding against each other for keywords that drive traffic to their news stories. These papers realize that Google gives them access to an audience outside their typical geographic boundary. In other words, an audience they wouldn’t otherwise reach.

Since newspapers are under pressure, many are offering deep discounts, free weekly delivery and other incentives for new print readers. The clear point of these programs is to prop up declining circulation. It seems like The Daily Telegraph at least understands that the Internet is a valuable customer acquisition tool for new customers. The Internet can even extend a company’s geographic reach.

In a New York Times article, Ted Turner said: “He loved newspapers but was not sure of their future. ‘It’s an outmoded technology,’ he said.”

One thing is for certain, newspapers like those in Belgium, are going to have to adapt if they are going to survive. Perhaps the Belgian newspapers should consider a trip to The Daily Telegraph to learn the inherent value of a good SEO/SEM program. On the other hand, maybe they can just wait it out until this search engine fad finally disappears once and for all.

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