For Google, what is happening in Germany right now is a very big issue. If the German Bundestag (government) gets its way, the search giant could be forced to remove publisher content and made to pay for the snippets it displays in search results.
Recognising that its German users may find it difficult to find the information they seek, Google has today launched a new campaign in the country called “Defend Your Net,” setting up a new portal designed to educate and mobilise its users to help protect the information it collects.
On this small portal, Google spells out what it believes will happen should German politicians side with publishers and force it to remove content from its search results. It explains that a change in the law could mean “higher costs, less information and massive legal uncertainty. Bloggers, politicians, the German economy and leading scientists reject this venture.”
Google suggests such a law could damage the German economy, threaten the diversity of information, result in massive legal uncertainty, set back innovative media and copyright and cause a “market economy paradox.”
Later this month a proposed new section to the German Copyright Act is due to be discussed in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. The new section, if introduced, would provide the “producer of news materials” the general “exclusive right to make said materials publicly available, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes.”
Others would be permitted to provide “public access” to the publishers’ material unless those providing that access are “commercial operators of search engines or commercial providers of services that aggregate this content in a respective fashion”. News publishers’ right to control the commercial exploitation of their work in this regard would extend for a year after publication. Authors of the work would be entitled to be “provided with a reasonable share of the remunerations issuing from the author’s work”.
The search giant argues that publishers already have the tools at their disposal to opt out of Google’s search results and it doesn’t profit from such news as its Google News service is completely free of advertising. In fact, Google says that it even directs as many as 45 percent of one German news website’s readers via its Google.de search engine.
To fight the law, Google asks German users fill out a web form notifying the company of their views on the proposed changes (perhaps protest would be a better word). It also lists a page where visitors can locate their local member of parliament and voice their opposition to the new copyright law.
Google’s search and News service already directs four billion hits to publishers globally, equating to roughly 100,000 clicks per minute. The company reminds publishers that if they do not want to appear in its search or on Google News, they can unsubscribe easily with a short text code – meaning “an ‘intellectual property right’ is not required.”
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