Google blocked several Belgian newspapers from its web search results Friday in what the papers called retaliation over a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Google said an order issued in the case required it to exclude the newspapers' websites.
The newspapers filed a lawsuit against Google in 2006 claiming the web giant had no right to post links to their articles on Google News without payment or permission. They won, and a Belgian appeals court upheld their victory in May.
The paper La Capitale said on its web site Friday that Google had begun "boycotting" it. Google searches late Friday showed that the websites of the newspapers who sued Google, who were members of an organization called Copiepresse — a Belgian, French-language newspaper copyright management company — did not appear in search results, as they have in the past.
Google spokesman William Echikson said the court decision applied to web search as well as Google News and the company faced fines of 25,000 euros ($35,359) per infringement if it allowed the newspapers' websites to keep appearing.
"We regret having to do so," he said. "We would be happy to reinclude Copiepresse if they would indicate their desire to appear in Google Search and waive the potential penalties."
An article Friday on the web site of one of the newspapers, La Libre, took issue with Google's interpretation.
"It is necessary to distinguish the Google search engine from the Google news service," the article said. "The news editors do not oppose having their content referenced by the Google search engine, they refuse on the other hand for their informational content to be included in Google News," the article said.