Bundestag lands publishers blow in Google row


Bundestag lands publishers blow in Google row

Germany’s parliament backed legislation on Friday that allows Google to continue showing snippets of news stories without paying publishers royalties.

The ‘ancillary copyright’ bill, which received 293 votes in favour and 243 against in the Bundestag, enables Internet news aggregators to freely display single words or very small text excerpts. If news content exceeds these limits, publishers can charge royalty fees.

Last year, the government launched the bill – Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger in order to allow print publishers to license their web content. Despite voting comfortably for the bill today, lawmakers made a last-minute change that said news aggregators do not need to pay for snippets of news.

That revision means the bill, which must still pass through the Bundesrat (upper house), doesn’t extend copyright protection as far as German publishers had wanted.

German newspapers have been struggling to sustain their print advertising revenues and have seen increasing advertising revenue from web pages as a danger to their businesses. One of the bill’s main proponents was Axel Springer, which owns German papers including Bild.  

Google had argued that it drives traffic to publishers’ website and that it doesn’t earn ad revenue on its European Google News services.

In its current form, the bill raises questions about what constitutes a news snippet, said Dr Wolfgang Götz, attorney-at-law with Klaka Rechtsanwälte, a Munich law firm. “Is it 10 words, 20 words, 50 words? It’s unclear.”

He added that the bill does not strike a good balance between Internet companies and the rights of journalists and writers, because the latter should be allowed to fully protect their copyright.

However, this is the first time German publishers have been able decide how their web content is used commercially, as search engines and news aggregators have to ask them (and pay) to use their articles under licensing agreements.

Google has tangled with publishers in several countries across Europe, and in February this year settled a six-month dispute with French newspapers about how it used their copyright online. Google created a $60 million ‘digital publishing innovation’ fund and agreed to assist with boosting French publishers’ online revenues.

In December 2012, a group of French-language publishers in Belgium cut a deal with Google to end six years of litigation about the use of their news stories on the search engine. The financial details of the deal were undisclosed, but Google agreed to help boost the publishers’ advertising revenue.

This article was first published on 01 March 2013 in World IP Review

bundestag, bundesrat, google, axel springer, ancillary copyright

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