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German publishers opt to be Googled — for now

A new copyright law went into effect in Germany today requiring Google and other aggregators to get an affirmative opt-in from news publishers before including their content in search results. German publishers had lobbied hard for the change — part of a growing movement among European publishers and governments to give copyright owners greater leverage with aggregators. But when it came time to fish or cut bait in Germany, most major publishers decided to opt-in to Google News after all.

The detente may not last, however. Axel Springer AG, publisher of the mass-circulation tabloid Bild and national daily Die Welt, told the AP the move is only temporary while the publisher “lays the legal and technical groundwork,” to charge Google and other aggregators for the use of its content. 

That should be interesting. Google has agreed to make indirect payments to publishers in Belgium and France, largely to forestall moves toward stricter sanctions on aggregation. But paying publishers directly, presumably on some sort of per-use or pro-rata basis, might be a bridge too far.

On the other hand, developing a technical infrastructure by which publishers could share in the value created through aggregation and syndication via social media would benefit the entire online news ecosystem. If German publishers are able to architect such an infrastructure, or even just parts of such an infrastructure, could prove valuable whether, or not, Google goes along with it.