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Summary:

The controversial ancillary copyright law has now made its way through the Bundestag, although the opposition SPD party will try to defeat it in the country’s second legislative chamber.

berlin

This story was updated at 5 a.m. PT with comment from Google, and again at 6.45am with thoughts following on from that comment.

The German parliament has passed a controversial law that will force search engines and news aggregators to pay publishers royalties for providing snippets of their articles in results.

The Bundestag passed the Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger (LSR), or “ancillary copyright for press publishers” law, on Friday by 293 votes to 243. Germany’s coalition government was the driver behind the law, and the main opposition, the SPD, now says it will try to defeat the law in the country’s second legislative chamber, the Bundesrat.

The text that got passed in the Bundestag exempts individual words or “small text snippets,” although it does not state how short a text snippet has to be to be royalty-free – if it is shorter than a headline, this will probably mean the wholesale removal of all German news publications from Google’s search results.

Google has been a vocal opponent of the law, for obvious reasons. In France and Belgium the company has settled related disputes with publishers in deals that many have seen as tantamount to a payoff.

Google’s spokesman in Germany, Ralf Bremer, hailed the watering-down of the law but still bemoaned the lack of a proper settlement:

“As a result of today’s vote, ancillary copyright in its most damaging form has been stopped. However, the best outcome for Germany would be no new legislation because it threatens innovation, particularly for startups. It’s also not necessary because publishers and internet companies can innovate together, just as Google has done in many other countries.”

Who won?

Google’s attempt to paint this as a victory — claiming the recently-added exemption clears it — is only partially on-target. You can tell this by the fact that the German publisher’s association is also claiming a semi-victory.

According to that association, the BDVZ, the legislation’s passage will “enable [publishers] to set the conditions under which their content is used by search engines and aggregators for commercial purposes”. Crucially, the BDVZ also points out that “an automatic right of use” is not permitted by the law, leaving it “open to publishers to make the business decision that they agree with search engines and aggregators who wish to use the content for commercial publishing”.

In other words, the publishers now have an even stronger hand in their behind-the-scenes negotiations with Google than their counterparts in France and Belgium did, because they have a rather muddled law they can point to. And I doubt Google will stand its ground for long in such talks — the company has seemed increasingly willing of late to quietly settle issues that it previously yelled about as matters of principle.

So who really won here? The publishers. Google just didn’t lose as hard as it was going to before the text got revised.

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  1. The Germans are to be congratulated. Content production is not free, and news aggregators syphon away ad revenue without picking up any of the cost or production. Google has enough monopolies to be getting on with for the time being.

    1. Learn about robots.txt. And fcuk off

      1. Once again, the web community shows itself to be greedy and plain rude.

    2. So your argument is that if Google stopped aggregating their ad revenue, now without traffic driven by search results, would go… up? Yeah, that makes good logical sense.

  2. I wish Google would just take their toys and leave for a month. Sad fact – the very legislators now trying to force Google to pay up in order to do free publicity for newspapers online are one of its heaviest users. Nary a debate or discussion in my Landtag or Bundestag without legislators furiously “googling” on their laptops.

    Losing access to the services Google provides might turn some people’s demands around – it’s hard to appreciate something before it’s gone.

    1. Fine with me. There are other good search engines. Hundreds of them.

  3. I wish Google would just take their toys and leave for a month. Sad fact – the very legislators now trying to force Google to pay up in order to do free publicity for newspapers online are one of its heaviest users. Nary a debate or discussion in my Landtag or Bundestag without legislators furiously “googling” on their laptops.

    Losing access to the services Google provides might turn some people’s demands around – it’s hard to appreciate something before it’s gone.

  4. Fred Marketter Friday, March 1, 2013

    Yay! Suck it aggregating leaches.

    1. Because Google isn’t one of if not the biggest driver of traffic to these sites. Leaches indeed…

      1. They’re only able to drive the traffic because news.google.com is a great front page. If you steal the headline and the photograph, it makes it easy to create a newspaper for skimming.

        I tell you what. Let’s let Google stop stealing all of the content and then we’ll see how much traffic they drive.

  5. They don’t get it, but this might be excellent. Maybe this will make it cheaper to publish news snippets from lesser known outlets who do not demand royalties, having the side effect of displaying more honest news instead of the main stream echo chamber.

    1. Fred Marketter Luuuke Sunday, March 3, 2013

      I say it all the time. Bunch of leeches. One of my friends who works at Google says there’s a huge denial about the way they’re strip mining the ecosystem. The news sources are drying up and all that’s left are the aggregators. That drives down the value of Google and pushes more and more knowledge into silos and walled gardens.

      Suck it aggregators.

  6. How is this controversial exactly?? Google stealing content seems to be controversial but no one wants to come out and say it. In time, it will be seen for what it is. Congrats to Germany for protecting copyright and IP, something that has gone out of fashion here in the US.

  7. With that move they will even more isolate themselves. Brief look at daily headlines shows that thousands of news outlets repeat same mundane articles. Why pay for that?

    If will fasten their demise into oblivion, and raise citizen journalism (which will probably not be worse)

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