Despite a pledge to the contrary made 16 months ago, Google is still returning links to AFP (Agence France Presse) articles in its Google News website.

The French news agency sued Google in March 2005, alleging copyright infringement over the inclusion of AFP content in Google News, a news search service which aggregates links to online articles and accompanying photos from about 4,500 news outlets.

Days later, Google announced it would scrub Google News clean of AFP content, including text, thumbnails of photos, and headlines linked to articles in external websites. However, a Google News search for 'Agence France Presse' done yesterday shows that AFP articles are still being indexed by Google News.

In the first two pages of results, the English-language version of Google News returned links to several recent AFP-bylined articles, including one that appeared this weekend on The New York Times' online edition headlined "Uganda Says Rebels’ Words Threaten Talks". Meanwhile, AFP-bylined stories also came up after doing the same search in Google News' French-language version.

A lawyer for Google declined to comment, while a Google spokesman couldn't immediately explain why AFP links and content are still appearing on Google News. An AFP official in its North America headquarters in Washington DC referred questions to its lawyer, who didn't immediately reply to a comment request.

Google isn't under any legal obligation at this point to refrain from including AFP content on Google News. However, Google made a decision to comply with AFP's demands, possibly to bolster its defence in the case.

Last year, a Google spokesman said Google's policy is to comply with opt-out requests from news outlets that don't want their content appearing on Google News. Still, Google's ability to fully comply with such requests is, at the very least, questionable, considering it is still serving up AFP content and links almost 18 months after pledging to rid Google News of them.

AFP generates revenue by charging fees to news outlets that subscribe to its wire service. In its complaint, AFP charges Google with copyright violation, alleging that, as a non-subscriber to AFP, Google has no right to include AFP content in Google News.

The news agency is seeking to recover damages of at least $17.5m (about £9.6m) from Google and wants the court to forbid Google from including its content in Google News.