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Ancillary copyright law under discussion in Germany

13 February, 2013

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Deutsch: Deutschland: Debatte um Leistungsschutzrecht

The Judiciary Committee of the German Bundestag held on 30 January 2013 an expert hearing on the proposed “Leistungsschutzrecht” (LRS, known also as “ancillary copyright”) law for news publishers which will require search engines and others to ask permission from news publishers to link to their content or even give summarize news content.

The draft law was criticized by civil society groups as well as the German association of Internet economy which pointed out the lack of clarity of the terms used in the text and the negative effects that the law may bring by restricting the diversity of information on the internet. Moreover, the legislation is superfluous as publishers are already protected by copyright provisions. If this bill is enacted as-is, search engines would be allowed to display snippets only after having received permission which may involve or not some payment to the news publishers.

In some cases, a press publisher might pay a search engine to be included in its searches. The important issue is that a search engine, and maybe even social networks, will be obliged to ask permission to provide snippets from a news publisher. The law has several unclear areas. For instance, it is not clear whether blogs will be considered as press products due to the vague definition of the term. The expert hearing was not focused on technological expertise but rather on how such a law might fit into the current legal framework.

A representative from the publishers’ associations asked for a technical language to express conditions such as temporal, topical or size restrictions, payment requirements and other conditions but did not succeed in presenting a proper way of how this could be implemented. All experts in the hearing agreed the law would create a period (estimated at about 5 years) of legal uncertainty, requiring a series of lawsuits before realizing who will actually be within the sights of the LRS. This uncertainty also applies when we talk about Facebook or Twitter. It is not yet clear whether the law will cover only search engines such as Google or it will extend to social networks. MP Siegfried Kauder of the Christian Democrats party stated that in his opinion, after hearing the experts, there seemed to be no reason for the promotion of the law as, it appeared to be unlikely the law would help in actually producing new income for news publishers.

In the meantime, in France, Google seems to give in under similar pressure. Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google made a statement on the company blog on 1 February 2013, in an attempt to point out that the search engine had generated “billions of clicks each month” for news publishers, “and our advertising solutions (in which we have invested billions of dollars) help them make money from that traffic.”

But Schmidt also stated that on the same date, he, together with President Hollande of France, announced two new initiatives “to help stimulate innovation and increase revenues for French publishers.”

One was the creation of a 60 million euro Digital Publishing Innovation Fund financed by Google “to help support transformative digital publishing initiatives for French readers.” The second initiative is to increase the partnership with French publishers “to help increase their online revenues using our advertising technology.”

German Parliament Hears Experts On Proposed Law To Limit Search Engines (31.01.2013)

Google creates €60m Digital Publishing Innovation Fund to support transformative French digital publishing initiatives (1.02.2013)

EDRi-gram: Ancillary copyright madness in Germany and France (26.09.2012)



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