On Friday, Germany's ruling coalition of liberals and conservatives voted for a "Leistungsschutzrecht" — an addendum to German copyright law — which would allow content creators such publishing houses to charge services that aggregate news.
The motion passed the German Bundestag with 294 votes to 243 votes against it, although this doesn't mean it will come into effect. It still has to pass the Bundesrat, where the opposition has more votes than the ruling coalition. The law is scheduled to be discussed again on March 22.
The discussion around the proposed law mainly focused on so called "snippets".
These are short text information from the target website, such as the headline and all or a part of the introduction.
Aggregators are allowed to use these snippets for free but any more than that could lead to payments to publishers — and importantly, there is no definition of how long these snippets ought to be.
As a result, the proposed Leistungsschutzrecht could force commercial news aggregators to pay media companies for indexing and showing articles.
According to the supporters of the copyright addendum, news aggregators are taking the content produced by media companies for free and earn money with it. Although it is possible to deny the indexing of websites, publishing houses don't want to lock Google and others out — they want a piece of the earnings.
Opponents of the proposed law see it not only as a danger to the free flow of information, but also find it unnecessary, since it is possible to get the content indexed without being displayed in Google News. Most of the opponents see it as a play by media houses that struggle with monetizing content on the internet.
The discussion around the Leistungsschutzrecht is similar to debates in France and Belgium.
Google and French publishing houses reached an agreement: Google now books advertisement on French media websites and gets access to the content.
After a court battle in Belgium Google started to de-index all the content of publishers. Shortly after that, both parties then came to an agreement.