Germany Wants To Charge Search Engines To Use News Excerpts

Germany’s government wants search engines and news aggregators to pay news publishers for using pieces of their material.

Its coalition committee has resolved that a collecting society should charge royalties to re-publishers of news material.

The term of protection should be one year,” according to the committee.

“Commercial traders out there such as search engines and news aggregators should pay a fee to the publishers in the future for the distribution of press products (such as newspaper articles) on the internet.”

This could bring Germany in to line with the UK, where the Newspaper Licensing Agency (originally formed to charge royalties on photocopies of news clippings that are used commercially) now requires commercial news aggregators and their customers each pay a license to, respectively, process and receive summaries of newspapers’ online articles.

As in the UK, Germany is proposing “normal” private re-users of web news article summaries be exempt from royalties. But, whilst the UK mechanism avoids charging Google (NSDQ: GOOG) News because it targets only pay-for news aggregators, Germany’s proposal mentions both search engines and news aggregators.

The debate over whether search engines should pay for the privilege of crawling and using excerpts has been a long-running one that Google has sought to contain on multiple fronts…

Belgian newspapers won a European court case forcing Google to stop excerpting stories, demanding a phenomenal €49 million in damages. They even sued the European Commission for the same thing.

Since then, Germany’s publishing industry has been lobbying lawmakers for action, too…

In 2009, Germany hosted some 169 publishing execs (149 of them German) who signed what they called the Hamburg Declaration on Intellectual Property Rights – effectively a lobbying attempt on Europe’s then-media commissioner that complained: “Numerous providers are using the work of authors, publishers and broadcasters without paying for it.”

A year later, Germany’s Federation of Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) and Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ) complained to the federal government about Google’s use of snippets.

Now the German coalition, in its legislative attempt, is weighing heavily the fact that newspaper publishers are facing hard economic times.

Legal firm Pinsent Mason’s Out-Law site, which first reported the government’s intention, writes: “The European Court of Justice ruled in 2009 that ‘isolated sentences’ or even parts of sentences were copyright-protectable if they conveyed ‘to the reader the originality of a publication such as a newspaper article, by communicating to that reader an element which is, in itself, the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of that article’.”