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Google News Snippets, YouTube Embedded Videos Face Legal Challenges in Germany

jennifer-slegg
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gavel-keyboardWebmasters will need to be much more careful about quoting content from online German publications if a new online copyright law comes into effect in Germany on August 1.

The law, which targets search engines that provide snippets, originally would have given news sites the ability to seek monetary compensation for the supposed lost revenue caused by Google and other search engines when using those snippets.

The law had been greatly revamped from the initial proposed law, which would have allowed publishers to charge licensing fees to search engines for the right to publish short snippets from their sites, such as the short snippets that appear in Google News results. If the law had passed in that form, it would have caused significant issues with Google’s ability to run their Google News service in Germany.

As offline publications are struggling to move into the digital age, it wouldn’t be surprising if other countries attempt to do the same, as France did several years ago.

It is yet unclear how this law will be enforced, particularly with regards to interpretation of the language, and how large or small the snippets can be.

It is worth noting, however, that any site or news service could prevent Google from showing links to and snippets from any site by simply utilizing robots.txt to disallow Google’s bots from reading and indexing the site. However, sites doing this would lose traffic from Google and other search engines, which could potentially result in an even greater loss of revenue.

Germany is also in the midst of a battle regarding the use of embedded video on websites. The German Federal Court of Justice ruled that embedded videos don't infringe copyright under German laws, however, it could still violate European laws.

If the CJEU decides that German law is not compatible with E.U. law, the Germans will have to change their law to be in compliance with European rules, Van der Jeught said. A decision made by the CJEU will also apply to all other member states, which also would have to change their laws accordingly if necessary, he said.

"But it depends on how broad the interpretation is," he said, adding that the member states have to decide for themselves in what way they are going to make their laws compatible with E.U. rules.

Because an embedded video is simply a link to content on another site, there is no copyright infringement. And again, it's also worth noting that anyone who uploads a video to YouTube can turn off the embedding feature on any of their uploaded videos, to prevent their videos from appearing on unwanted websites.


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