Google opposes German law on Google News (and similar services)

As reported by the Financial Times, yesterday Google launched a public campaign called Defend Your Net.

This is an attempt to stop Germany passing legislation that would allow publishers to charge internet search engines for displaying links to newspaper articles on services like Google News (see earlier 1709 Blog report here). 

The Bundestag is supposed to discuss what has come to be known as the Lex Google or Google Tax tomorrow.
The draft legislation is backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition of Christian Democrats and Free Democrats, and is intended to recoup some of the revenues traditional publishers have lost to the web. The German association of newspaper publishers says that newspaper revenues fell 20% to €11bn per year between 2000 and 2009 as readers and advertisers migrated to the internet. In 2011 the decline in advertising revenues (-1.2 percent) was however considerably smaller than in 2009 (-15.9 percent) (some additional data can be found here).
Embarrassed Oscar caught in one of those
rare moments not spent reading
financial news online
If passed (this should happen sometime next summer), the bill would introduce an ancillary right for press publishers. This would result in search engines having to seek publishers' permission for displaying links and snippets and also pay a licence fee for their use.
As explained by the Daily Business Post, the proposed piece of legislation would give publishers the exclusive right to make commercial uses of their journalistic contents in the year following their publication. 
Google's Defend Your Net campaign contains also a page dedicated to 10 facts about intellectual property. Among the other things, Google points out that publishers can already decide whether they want their pages be found through Search. In addition, not only is the Google News service completely free of advertising, but it directs as many as 45% of a German news website's readers via
There were times when news
services clearly involved acts
of communication to the public
Overall such a law, claims Google, would damage the German economy, threaten the diversity of information, result in massive legal uncertainty, set back innovative media and copyright and cause a market economy paradox. 
In the meanwhile, Mozilla has joined Google in its battle against the Lex Google. In a blog post published earlier today, Mozilla has made it clear that
[the proposed legislation] may be bad for users and the web. If snippets and headlines require licence fees, the ability to locate information may be curtailed as search engines could (and likely will) simply remove the publishers from their index - an approach Google has already taken in Belgium. If this happens, locating the news becomes more difficult. Imposition of licence fees in this context may also reduce competition by making it more difficult for new entrants who cannot pay such fees, and unintentionally favouring well-funded players who can pay.
We’ll see what the future holds for the German Lex Google. In any case, it is apparent that, should the bill be approved in the end, it would set a strong precedent which is likely to induce other European countries (eg France: see here and here) to imitate Germany and ask Google to pay for displaying links to and snippets of newspaper articles.
This Kat reckons that many interests are at stake here. However, she wonders whether some guidance on the actual legitimacy of services like Google News may come from the Court of Justice of the European Union, which has just been asked to consider whether linking may be tantamount to an act of communication, as per Article 3(1) of the InfoSoc Directive.
Google opposes German law on Google News (and similar services) Google opposes German law on Google News (and similar services) Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 Rating: 5

1 comment:

  1. Have we been here before?

    Das News, September 1439, 1st edition


    The union of scribes will tomorrow lobby Albert II, uncrowned King of Germany, for a change in the law which will impose a tax on the reproduction of words. Currently very few people are literate and therefore any books which are produced are expensive and limited to a small number of topics. However, a new invention by Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg is expected to change all this.

    The invention, known as a 'printing press' will enable people other than scribes to produce documents and books on whatever topic they like. Such a dramatic change may improve literacy and freedom of speech and lead to open democratic rule. Only time will tell if these are good for mankind.

    Asked whether the new technology is justified for an open and informed society and why they didn't choose to embrace the new business model, the ancient scribes simply shrugged and said it was tradition that the proletariat should receive their news in handwriting, not print.

    In other news, King Cnut's seaside pictures…


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