For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

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Sunday, 23 June 2013

What happened after the German Lex Google? Google News became opt-in

Google News saga aficionados will promptly remember that on 22 March last, following approval by the Bundestag, the German Bundesrat passed a piece of legislation known as Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverlege (‘LSR’) or - more conveniently (especially for those non-German speakers who nonetheless are keen Latinists) - Lex Google

This new piece of legislation extended press publishers’ copyright by granting them an ancillary right over news contents. The newly created sections 87f, 87g and 87h of the German Copyright Act provide for the exclusive right of press publishers to exploit their contents commercially for one year, thus preventing search engines and news aggregators from displaying excerpts from newspaper articles without paying a fee.

Publishers queuing
(with their black cats)
to opt-in Google News
Despite widespread criticisms against the German law (including Google itself and the German Association of Start-ups), possible introduction of something akin to the German LSR is currently being considered elsewhere in Europe.

In any case, the adoption of the LSR was not the end of the story.

Last Friday Google announced that, starting August 1 [this is also the date when new sections 87f-h enter into force], there will be changes to the way Google News works in Germany. The popular news aggregation service will in fact start indexing only sources that decide to opt-in explicitly, while maintaining its opting-out mechanism in the other 60 countries in which it is currently available [remember what happened in Brazil a few months ago?].  

This is the announcement by Google, as reported by Forbes and translated from German thanks to ... Google Translate:

A few weeks ago a law was passed in Germany: the related right for press publishers. In light of this development, and in light of the legal uncertainty that comes from the law, we have introduced a new confirmation system. With this we offer German publishers another way to tell us whether their contents (continued) to be displayed in Google News. This new confirmation statement is an addition to the existing technical possibilities for publishers to determine for themselves whether their contents to be displayed in our services – or not. Such tools such as robots.txt be recognized alongside Google and many other search
Merpel loves to catch up with latest IP news
on Sunday mornings 

engines and Internet services.
In all other countries, we will maintain in force, proven process: if a publisher makes its content available on the net, they are included in Google News. If publishers do not wish to be included in Google News, you can use a variety of technical options (robots.txt, meta tags) use to prevent indexing by Google – or simply tell us that their content will not be recorded. This is the best way to ensure that a wide variety of publishing votes are represented in our service – and not just those who have the administrative resources and the time for such processes.
According to TechCrunch, some major German publishers have already announced their intention to opt-in in order to be featured in Google News.

This looks like a smart move by Google, says Merpel, who also recalls that Google News is a non-commercial service (no ads, no revenues, etc). If it had been otherwise, then Google might have been able, not just to avoid having to pay the fees required under the LSR, but also ask the publishers to pay to be indexed. 

1 comment:

Gentoo said...

An alternative analysis might suggest that no action was required in the first place.

A few publishers huffed and puffed, a law was passed, Google adapted, news publishers got real and opted-in.

Given that passing a law is not a free good, e.g., will require some lawyers' fees (oh, wait... all is clear) and subsequent compliance monitoring, hasn't the deadweight cost of the wonders of IP just inceased?

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