Ancillary copyright law under discussion in Germany

By EDRi · February 13, 2013

This article is also available in:
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

German Parliament Hears Experts On Proposed Law To Limit Search Engines From Using News Content

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)