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Google Fighting German Publishers Over Copyright

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google-germany-reunification-doodle-2008It’s a proposed piece of legislation that seems absurd on its face and only becomes more self-defeating and strange as you look further into it. German publishers have been lobbying government for at least a few years to bring into law a licensing system for search engines that link to news content.

In essence, what they’re demanding is that Google and other search engines actually pay for the right to use news headlines and a summary in results listings. The engines can still link to their content, say the German publishers. They just can’t reproduce their headlines or summaries without paying.

Never mind that Google drives traffic to their websites. Never mind that it would be a pretty poor user experience if they had no idea what the search listing was because the title and summary were unavailable.

No, this is what German publishers want and the proposed law is now in its second draft.

kay-oberbeck-google“Nobody sees a real reason why this should be implemented,” Google’s North Europe Communications Chief Kay Oberbeck (pictured at right) told GigaOm. “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.”

Oberbeck also pointed out that publishers can simply block Googlebot with their robots.txt file if they don’t wish to appear in search results. It seems, though, that they want to be there... they just want Google to pay for the privilege of driving traffic to them.

“Publishers should be innovate in order to be successful,” Oberbeck said. “A compulsory levy for commercial internet users means cross-subsidizing publishers through other industries. This is not a sustainable solution.” No kidding.

This isn’t the first time news publishers have demonstrated their inability to grasp that Google is not hosting their content, but linking to it. In 2009, U.S. publishers decided they wanted search engines to pay to list their sites. At that time, Google released a statement on their Public Policy Blog advising them of the step-by-step process required to block search engine access to their sites.

Sometimes you have to wonder if those in large corporations and government really understand what it is they’re asking for, when trying to police technology.


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