Publishers versus google: criticism of copyright reform

The print media want to share in the profits of commercial search engines. This is what the coalition of union and FDP decided on sunday. With the reform of copyright law, the government wants to fulfill a long-standing demand of german newspaper and magazine publishers.

"Commercial providers on the net, such as search engine operators and news aggregators, should in future pay publishers a fee for the distribution of press products (such as newspaper articles) on the internet," the coalition’s resolution paper states. Private individuals will not be affected by the planned regulation because private use of press products on the net will remain free of charge. Even for companies, paper printouts and reading news on the screen remain free of charge.

The federal association of german newspaper publishers (BDZV) and the association of german magazine publishers (VDZ) see the new copyright law as a prerequisite for effectively protecting "the joint efforts of journalists and publishers" in the digital age. The levy is to be collected by a collecting society and distributed to the media.

Christoph keese, co-chairman of the copyright working group of the BDZV and VDZ publishers’ associations, does not see any danger of google withdrawing from germany. Google news directs some users to publishers’ sites. "The ancillary copyright ensures that press publishers are treated no differently than, say, producers of films, sound recorders and databases, or concert promoters," said keese, group managing director of public affairs at the media house axel springer ("bild," "die welt").

With the reform of copyright law, publishers want to protect the use of their offerings on the net. Like record companies or concert organizers, who are already covered by copyright, the editorial and technical contribution of publishers makes it possible for their work to reach the public via the internet, they argue.

Google criticized the plan, but did not put its own interests on the line. "I am afraid that such a regulation could slow down the development of the internet, because it leads to additional costs and friction," the former head and current chairman of the board of directors of the u.S. Company, eric schmidt, told the deutsche presse agency. The initiative is not a "lex google": the law was passed to affect many online services.

Schmidt does not accept the media industry’s argument that it is entitled to a fair share of revenues. "How do you define fair? Shouldn’t the publisher get a share, on whose advice you read the article?? Or the internet provider?"He called on the media industry to develop new business models – also together with google.

The IT industry association bitkom also criticized the regulation and spoke of an impending "compulsory levy" that was not objectively justified. It would mean a massive break in the system of copyright law in favor of a single industry, according to the bitkom statement, which, however, was not supported by bitkom member bertelsmann AG. Bertelsmann joins other major publishers in supporting new performance protection law. The coalition’s plans are a "lex google" that will hardly affect other companies, bitkom chief executive bernhard rohleder said at the cebit computer fair in hanover.

The german journalists’ association (DJV) called for journalists to be given a fair share of the future levy. If search engines are to pay for the use of journalistic works, the authors must receive an appropriate share of the revenue, explained the DJV’s federal chairman, michael konken. The distribution must be fair, transparent and comprehensible.

The decision of the coalition round does not indicate how high the planned levy for so-called snippets, i.E. Text excerpts, is to be. The paper merely states that the authors should also receive an appropriate financial share in the exploitation of the ancillary copyright. "The collection and distribution of royalties is to be carried out by a collecting society. The period of protection is to be one year."

Blogger and journalist stefan niggemeier criticized the coalition’s decision: "it’s as if the yellow pages had to pay the companies to record their information."The plan lacks "any internal logic. In the twitter short message service, many users compared the coalition plans to "hartz 4 for publishers" or spoke of an "unconditional basic income" for media houses.

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