Google launches petition against German 'link tax' proposals

Google launches petition against German 'link tax' proposals

Summary: The company has initiated a campaign against German government proposals that would force search engines to pay a copyright fee every time they bring up a snippet of a news story in their results.

TOPICS: Censorship, Google, EU

Google has kicked off a campaign against a proposed German law that would force search engine providers to pay copyright fees every time they return a news article in their results.

The Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger, or 'ancillary copyright for press publishers', would provide an extension of copyright in Germany to cover snippets of articles, such as those that show up in search results so the user can tell what each result is about. It is being proposed by Angela Merkel's coalition, and follows intense lobbying by publishing giant Axel Springer and others.

On Tuesday, Google launched a petition against the proposals, arguing that they would make it much harder for web surfers to find what they are looking for. Google has complained about the Leistungsschutzrecht before, but is now stepping up its opposition due to the fact that the bill will be debated this week in the Bundestag.

"Most people have never heard of this proposed legislation," Google country director Stefan Tweraser said in a statement. "Such a law would affect every internet user in Germany [and] mean less information for consumers and higher costs for companies."

The petition is accompanied by an interactive map intended to show people how to contact their local MP to lobby back against the bill.

Not the only attempt

The version of the bill that is set for debate is not the first iteration. An earlier version would have forced not only search engines to pay up, but also any business that lets employees search the web at work.

That proposal elicited such a furious response from German industry bodies that the government scaled back its plans. The Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), which has been a driving force behind the legislation, has expressed its unhappiness with the current version.

A key argument of those who oppose the bill has been that any publication can de-index itself from Google's results, making legislation unnecessary. Indeed, this is what happened in Brazil last month, when all 154 members of the country's National Association of Newspapers (ANJ) opted out of being findable through Google's services.

Google is also facing similar problems in France. There, Google got so fed up with the demands of the newspaper industry for a 'link tax' that it said it would de-index all French media stories. This drove French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti to hit back against the company, saying "one doesn't deal with a democratic government using threats".

And in the UK, the Meltwater case has established that hyperlinks can be covered by copyright. However, while the 2011 ruling stated that anyone distributing links to newspaper articles for commercial purposes should have a licence to do so, the precedent has not yet been extended to the likes of Google.

Topics: Censorship, Google, EU

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • Axel Springer = Fox News

    I would just like to add that the Axel Springer AG are the ones who are publishing BILD (translated it means picture), a tabloid newspaper that is very very similar to the american Fox News. Pure sensationalism, naked women and other garbage. I am not surprised that they are the ones behind this.
    • Has some use

      I show people in China that the great firewall does not work by logging onto Bild. The woman are so bad they never look at porn again.
  • There is hope

    So, Google refuses to pay portion of their revenue to the sources that they use to generate that revenue?

    There is no such thing as a free lunch, Google.
    • Huh?

      This whole thing is about an old industry not wanting to adapt. To be honest, if Google removed them from their listings to prevent this tax then they would lose a HUGE chunk of their internet users.

      Google never actually copies the content onto their site, they just link to it and display a summary. Without Google, I wouldn't even know of, or care to know of, any news sites. I may look at the local one on occasion but the rest of my information would come from sites actually listed on Google or social networks.
      • It is an interesting case.

        On one side, I see this as just another reason to tax to help support an old industry. On the other side I see one company profiting from the work of others without compensation (Google excels at this). But at the same time, if these news sites get good headlines (click bait?) they will get increased traffic to improve their own web advertising.

        Lots of sides to this but I see it mostly as just another tax a government wants to impose.
      • "Google never actually copies the content onto their site"

        This is the funniest defence of Google I ever read!

        Not only does Google copy all the contents of every web site they can crawl, but they also spy on your (likely Chrome) browser and use your credentials to download data from the web sites you visited.

        How I know this? Simple -- the Google bot logs to my sites to get data that is not exposed in any external links and that belong strictly to something that was generated on-demand for certain user. Nice, eh?

        What will happen, if Google were to disappear one day? For the ordinary user, nothing.
        Only a bunch of web masters, who assist Google in spying at everyone will stop receiving their paycheques.
        • Can't cure stupid...

          Well, I would never know about any new sites ever again if Google went away.
          Yahoo sucks (Unless you're a porn addict). MSN sucks. Google and Gmail are the only good and secure search engine and email that I have seen.
        • Robots.txt

          If you wish to keep the robots out just Google Robots.txt, Also click settings new ingognito window, all your problems solved.
    • Google makes money from advertisement

      I don't know how many times you've looked at google news but there are no ads on those pages. They simply link the news articles and show a small portion. While I agree some articles could be skipped if the summary is all you need, I find myself reading the articles I'm interested in. So, if google doesn't advertise on a page and the links go to the website of the news article itself, how is google going to profit. The only thing google benefits from is continuing to be a site that gathers information instead of making someone search different sites, and this does make more people dependent upon the service. The only people who make money from the news section are the owners of the article, and they have a choice to use either advertising or pay walls to increase revenue.
    • Free lunch

      The newspapers are the ones getting the free lunch just that they also expect to be paid to eat it. Heres a tip do what BMW did just repeat random keywords and get delisted under Googles terms of service,
  • Angela Merkel and her party need to go!!!

    Like the Republican Party in the US, they have drifted to the extreme right of politics.
    • Except this is an extreme left position

      Just like where the Democratic Party has drifted as well. The idea do centrist no longer exists.
  • Who's REALLY making the threats here?

    "Google got so fed up with the demands of the newspaper industry for a 'link tax' that it said it would de-index all French media stories. This drove French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti to hit back against the company, saying "one doesn't deal with a democratic government using threats"."

    ummm... Google just said if you are going to make them pay to index French websites, they are going to stop indexing them. The real threat is telling Google they owe money for indexing websites. They aren't giving everything you worked for away for free. Just the first paragraph or what not. Users still have to log in and pay to read the rest of the story.

    The real Problem is that the BDZV is furious that Google is making more ad revenue off of blurbs of their stories than they are of their entire stories. If they don't like it, they can impose this copyright tax and Google will de-index them. Boom! Now both sides lose revenue. This is like two people in a foot race and the guy in second tackles the guy in first because he knows he can't win... now third place passes both of them. It's pure envy and greed.
    • There is easy solution to this

      Just make Google share part of their revenue with the source. That is not trivial, because they will have to pay each and every web site in the world, but far from impossible.
      Everyone will be happy, then.
      • ...

        that's also not the LAW...
        Google is allowed by law to share a summary of the article or first paragraph of any copywritten material... that's all they are doing. To say they should now be paying for that is to say that copywrite law should be re-written...
        that ain't gonna happen any time soon, so get off your magic fairy dust and come back to earth.
        • er typo of the brain

          copyright ... copyrighted ...
  • No First Ammendment

    Without a Constitutional guarantee to freedom of speech, the Euros keep on passing Ridiculous Laws.
    • Our constitution

      Article 5 of the German constitution:
      "(1) Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing, and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.

      (2) These rights shall find their limits in the provisions of general laws, in provisions for the protection of young persons, and in the right to personal honor.

      (3) Art and scholarship, research, and teaching shall be free. The freedom of teaching shall not release any person from allegiance to the constitution."

      So yeah, we do have constitutional freedom of speech.
      And what about America? SOPA? PIPA? The National Defense Authorization Act?
      • Freedom is not Free if it is Taxed.

        So you have a constitution...MY BAD!

        However, if you are Taxed when you exercise your freedom, isn't that "Freedom" nothing but a Farce ?
  • Challange For Google

    It's interesting to see verdict to come and in case Google looses what will be its next step.
    Will it discontinue its services or pay......Let wait and watch.