Google fighting proposed copyright law in Germany

News aggregators also oppose the law, which would charge a licensing fee for any reposted content.

Mar 3, 2020, 3:24 am*



Kevin Collier

German publishers think they’ve found a handy solution to bloggers who repost copyrighted content: just charge a small fee to any for-profit site that reprints the title or a portion of an article.

That’s the gist of the newest draft to update Germany’s Federal Copyright law, which would force German sites to pay a licensing fee for any content they repost.

News aggregating sites, of course, oppose the law—who wants added fees?—but they have a powerful ally in Google, which would see its operating fees skyrocket in Germany.

“Nobody sees a real reason why this should be implemented,” Google’s North Europe communications chief, Kay Oberbeck, wrote Tuesday. “It’s really harmful, not just for users who wouldn’t find as much information as they find now, but such a law is also not justified for economic reasons or judicial reasons.”

Joe McNamee, a spokesperson for the advocacy group European Digital Rights (EDRi), was more blunt.

“Yes, the proposal is as nuts as it sounds,” he told the Daily Dot.

“The publishers want to be paid because other companies make money out of directing visitors that *they* put on the Internet, for their own commercial benefit,” McNamee added. “It is broadly similar to Disneyland asking for a levy to be put on British Airways, because they make money flying people to Florida.”

Google provides about 100,000 clicks to news sites around the world every minute. German news organizations that support the new copyright law say that process provides a fortune for Google in ad revenue, some of which should go toward funding the journalism that provides that content.

But McNamee says it’s a general bias against Google in Europe that has allowed the proposed law to go further than it otherwise should.

“This is based on a deep-seated anti-Google sentiment in European politics that leads to a conveyor belt of policies that increase costs and bureaucracy in ways that only large companies like … erm … Google can manage to overcome,” he said.

Opponents to the bill can take comfort in the fact that it appears politically difficult. Wikipedia Deutschland’s Mathias Schindler, who’s attended the bill’s hearings, told Al Jazeera that politicians seem at a deadlock right as they head into a September recess, and that “it seems everyone is unhappy” with the current draft.

“From this point on, anything is possible, including sending the bill back or shelving it,” Schindler said. “I wouldn’t be surprised that as a result of lobbying and campaigning by different parties this bill ends up dead on arrival.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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*First Published: Aug 22, 2012, 8:35 am