Google Protests German Copyright Proposal

GERMANY: Google’s Ralf Bremer is up in arms about charges for linking to stories

Late in August, the German Government discussed a new copyright law which has got Google up in arms. The “ancillary copyright” amendment, known as Leistungsschutzrecht in German would basically make Google’s News pages more unworkable (or at least expensive) for Google. And France is considering a similar law.

The amendment proposes that search engines such as Google will have to pay for linking to news stories and including a paragraph of their text. If the search engine does not pay for a licence, the publisher an sue for an injunction.

The obligation to pay only applies to commercial search engine providers and commercial news aggregators, based on the idea that Google makes money from other people’s content by selling ads against extracts from it.  Bloggers, law firms, private and voluntary users (and presumably publications) should be able to continue to use online press releases. Also linking, quoting and reading the screen is still allowed.

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger (FDP) commented : “Press publishers must be protected on the Internet better.” France is also looking at a similar initiative, according to a report inthe business daily Les Echos

However, the Internet economy has been critical of the bill. The Bitkom association criticised the vague formulation, and said there was no social or political consensus on the need for this new right. In Germany, the Pirate Party has run a petition against the law . 

Google called it a “black day for the Internet in Germany.” Company spokesman Kay Oberbeck said:  “The draft law concerns every Internet user and means less information, higher costs and massive legal uncertainty.”  ZDNet got more on Google’s position from Ralf Bremer Google’s political spokesperson in Germany.

Those proposing ancillary copyright have argued that publishers will lose out because readers will no longer click through to their web site, because news-aggregators are displaying a headline and a snippet from the original story. 
Website owners can eliminate the appearance of snippets for Google News, by excluding the display of snippets in web searches. The so-called “nosnippet tag” allows differentiation between Google News and Google Web Search.

How do you account for the fact that Dietrich von Klaeden , of the Axel Springer publishing house vehemently supports ancillary copyright, and his brother Eckhart von Klaeden has a direct line to the Federal Chancellery? right is?
No comment.

What about France, where the union of the national daily press (SPQN) welcomed the German draft law regarding ancillary copyright?
Whether in Germany or elsewhere, such a law means less information, higher costs and massive legal uncertainty. The German Internet community, leading  politicians of all parties, and leading scientists all reject this measure.

On 19 September, the Federal Ministry of Justice, and Google’s legal chief for Northern Europe, Dr. Arnd Haller, will both take part in the Future Forum Copyright event. What do you expect to happen?
Google is involved whenever possible in debates on the future of copyright. The copyright of creative works must be protected on the internet, and copyright laws should be carefully adapted to the changes in the digital world. A modern copyright law must protect the poet and promotes thinkers – so that in the digital domain, Germany remains the land of poets and thinkers.

In Belgium, Google has removed from its index a newspaper publisher who threatened penalties of €15,000 per copyright infringement. Will Google do anything similar in Germany, if ancillary copyright is actually imposed?
We won’t speculate. We hope that the German parliament will reject this bill.

How do you assess the impact of ancillary copyright for the Internet economy in Germany?
The Internet is the “steam engine for the 21st Century”, says the Institute of the German Economy. According to Bitkom eleven percent of German jobs are dependent on the Internet, so about four million jobs [For comparison, around eight percent of the UK’s economy comes from online commerce – Editor]  However: In the World Wide Web Index Germany is ranked 16th [the UK came third]. With the proposed ancillary rights Germany would fall even further in this promising field.


kai schmerer zdnet deEuro Story: 
each week, TechWeekEurope will publish a selected story from across  NetMEdiaEurope’s network of European sites. This week’s story by Kai Schmerer is from ZDNet.de . It was translated and localised by Peter Judge.

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