Google has won at least a partial victory in the fight with publishers over “ancillary copyright” fees. For now, Google will be allowed to continue using short snippets of text from news stories on its site, but the ruling is confusing and fails to define how short that text must be.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Cornelius Rahn and Rainer Buergin reported, “Google Inc. (GOOG) and other news aggregators may continue to show short news items on their Internet sites without being required to pay, German lawmakers decided in a parliamentary vote today in a blow to publishers including Axel Springer AG (SPR) and Bertelsmann SE. A majority of lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition allowed companies such as Google to display ‘single words or very small text excerpts’ referring to publishers’ websites at no cost. For content exceeding these limits, publishers retain the exclusive right of use, according to the bill.”
Search Engine Land’s Greg Sterling recalled, “In August of last year a number of German lawmakers were pressing proposed ‘ancillary copyright’ legislation that would have required Google and others that indexed or aggregated news to pay for links or excerpts from those news items. The proposed law was championed by German magazine and newspaper publishers who, like their counterparts in the US, are seeing declining readership and ad sales.”
PCMag’s Chloe Albanesius noted, “The issue is not yet final, however. The country’s other legislative body, the Bundesrat, must also vote on the legislation, according to Deutsche Welle. As DW pointed out, meanwhile, the bill that passed the Bundestag does not really define what constitutes a ‘snippet,’ so issues could remain.”
VentureBeat’s John Koetsier commented, “Google won. Publishers won. No one won. Google won’t have to pay German news publishers to show short snippets of news, thanks to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s parliamentary coalition. But the law doesn’t specify how long those snippets can be. And the publishers association is also claiming victory, saying that the new legislation allows them to decide how Google — and others — can use their content. In other words, Germany has replaced a complete mess with an entirely new complete mess.”