March 6, 2013
Google Gets A Break In German Copyright Legislation
One of the stories buzzing in the electronic press concerns Google’s copyright disputes with German publishers. The country was considering legislation that would formalize copyright fee payments for the use of story snippets in news aggregators such as Google News. A compromise was forged at close to the last minute that allowed the use of snippets without a fee, but use of the entire work would still require a charge. German publishers declared victory, though I don’t know why. I would assume that basic copyright law in Europe would have prevented use of the entire work (without a fee, of course) in any event.
The dilemma for publishers, and not merely those in Germany, is how to make money from web content. Advertising revenues on site alone do not cut it as many content providers have discovered. This is one reason why there are these attempts to legislative a revenue stream. I don’t believe that Google threatened to delete links to German news stories from Google News. That certainly was one of its options if push came to shove.
Limiting access to content to those who pay for it may have its drawbacks. Consider this story from paidContent. It describes the pay-walled publication “The Magazine” available for iPad owners. Authors are allowed to repost their contributions on their own sites after 30 days. One author did and most of the response and discussion of that piece cited the author’s site rather than The Magazine. The management is reconsidering how its pay wall works as it would have preferred that it got the benefit of the social sharing and discussion. The realization is that people share what is easily available and ignore or minimize what is not.
Many commenters have pointed out that it’s hard to find a balance between free and paid to the point where one makes money. I agree, though I think the threat of legislation mandating payment by aggregators will drive them to minimize their costs by limiting some sources in their listings – the push comes to shove option. Google, Bing, Yahoo and others are not forced to link to anything. Legislation of this type is not going to create that balance. News is global, including items that would only get local coverage in another era. There’s another story in paidContent that posits the idea there is almost an infinite supply of free content out there. Google has the leverage here.More coverage on these developments is in Spiegel Online (found through Google News) and Bloomberg Law. The latter story indicates that the European Union intends to investigate if the legislation violates trade rules. There’s a joke in there somewhere. [MG]