Germany Wants To Force Google To Pay License Fees For Links

A report from GigaOm this morning discusses a ridiculous proposed “ancillary copyright” law in Germany that would compel Google — and others online — to pay to link to and excerpt any content from German publishers’ websites (e.g., newspapers). The law currently is in draft form and being debated by stakeholders and legislators.

The “fair use” doctrine would prohibit this sort of idea from becoming law in the US. But under the proposed German law, every link and/or content excerpts included in search results would be subject to licensing fees.

One question is how broadly the law would be applied. Would it selectively apply to German publishers or would it equally apply to all content creators? One would assume the latter. Regardless it would compromise the online economy in Germany and is extremely short-sighted accordingly.

Google has come out strongly against the proposed rules for obvious reasons. Not all German executives or legislators support the law either. It is reportedly the product of lobbying by powerful German publisher interests. But there’s also a bit of nationalism involved, with Google, Bing and Yahoo (American corporations) seen as antagonistic to German domestic publisher interests.

As the GigaOm piece points out, German publishers who don’t want their content indexed in Google or Bing can use the robot.txt tag to signal that desire. However the proposed law seems calculated to generate revenue as well as be somewhat “punitive” — it would appear.

My assumption is that “cooler heads will prevail” and ultimately there will be enough internal German opposition to the law that it will not see formal passage.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Google: Outside US | Legal: Copyright

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Deborah Boyd

    Germany has many issues to face. Along with the EU they are trying to prop up the old Royalty gig and it isn’t doing well with the under 30 crowd. The world is changing and Germany is changing faster than some of the countries in the EU. Sadly Germany has the same problem as America with the radical conservative element. It was the Conservative Isolationist Germans that thought Hitler was a good idea. The controlling International 1% have become hooked on cheap labor as a residual of the industrial era but Google, Facebook, IBM, and others have shown the world that the future belongs to intelligence, creativity, and collaboration. No more cheap labor but smart autonomic labor & great customer service and quality control.

  • http://twitter.com/ReubenYau Reuben Yau

    BT tried something similar a few years ago, but it didn’t work out for them.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/798475.stm I agree, it does seem a little short sighted.

  • mmbrown

    I think the law is trying to accomplish what Google has accomplished
    with copyrighted content on YouTube: Instead of censoring and deleting
    videos with copyrighted content Google gives copyright owners the choice
    of leaving the video up and sharing in ad-revenue or having the video
    taken down. The majority chooses to leave their content up and make the
    money instead.

    As publishers don’t really want to take down their content, they’d much
    rather ‘license’ it to Google and share their revenue. It might just
    work!

    Even though I agree that sometimes the people at the top don’t get how
    the internet works, I believe the attempt at this law is a sign of the
    growth the internet is undergoing. It won’t always remain as simple and
    overseeable as it is now.

  • Lolololol

    Yeah sure as soon as we talk about Germany we use the word “Nationalism”. Excuse me, but didn’t the USA turn in to police states in the recent years? Do we talk about nationalism or American imperialism when Hollywood tries to impose ACTA on Europe? No we don’t. I can understand that the German publisher don’t want to give their hard earned work for free to the best supplier of TrapWire.

  • Guest

    why should publishers need to explicitly block google using robots.txt? Every country has its own right to impose their rules and what germany is doing is infact right…isn’t google greedy of scraping others images and showing them as their own? Isn’t google greedy in scraping others content and showing them as part of their KG on SERPS? Isn;t google greedy in integrating and promoting all their properties on SERPS?

    Hope other countries do this too to prevent these U.S. giants from ruling internet as well and dictating rules for others to obey.

  • http://www.guillaumeerard.com Guillaume Erard

    Just because this is about Germany made it absolutely necessary to bring Hitler in right?

  • Adriana Maramo

    On a simmilar note, one can see in Germany close to nothing on e.g. Leona Lewis’ own Youtube channel – because of the GEMA thing. Does that seem right to you?

    This isn’t about competition or nationalism, just history repeating: It was only a few centuries ago that people would set factories on fire, hoping to kill the industrialization era.

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