France’s Union of the National Daily Press (SPQN) is taking a keen interest in a draft law, approved by Germany’s cabinet last week, which would require aggregators such as Google News that reproduce snippets of text from news articles to pay a copyright fee to publishers, reported Le Monde on Tuesday.
The German draft law, backed by major publishing houses Axel Springer and Bertelsmann, has been nicknamed the “Lex Google” in France. Initially put forth by the Federation of German News Publishers, its intention is to allow publishers to recover some of the advertising revenue that they say is lost to aggregators who reproduce “pirated” content from news organizations’ websites as teasers on their news pages.
"Our children learn that, if they want something, they have to ask first… That is something that Google and co. should do as well. Those who use the work of others must accept a price tag," asserted the German tabloid Bild, an Axel Springer publication, after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved the draft law on August 29, according to Der Spiegel.
France’s SPQN has invited Axel Springer’s Managing Director of Public Affairs Christoph Keese, who acted as the primary lobbyist in charge of defending the position of German editors, to come to Paris and share his experiences in a meeting on September 19.
The French editors are making no attempt to conceal the fact that they are preparing a strong lobby against Google in France in case a similar motion gains traction in Paris, according to Le Monde. The search giant, which gathered a team of seven to defend its interests against the German draft law, is not impressed. Kay Oberbeck, the head of PR for Google Germany, lamented the cabinet’s approval in a statement: “This interference with the Internet is unparalleled worldwide. It’s a dark day for the Internet in Germany.”
Germany’s opposition parties, including members of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Pirate Party, are also criticizing the draft, claiming that it restricts Internet freedom, and casting doubt on whether such a law is needed. "There are no technical, legal or economic reasons for this law, which puts the brakes on innovation," said Bruno Kramm, an expert on copyright law with the Pirate Party, which is based on the promotion of Internet freedom, but which does not have representation in Germany’s Federal Parliament.
More draconian versions of the German draft, which would have required bloggers to pay to quote from news articles (and thus would have rendered this post an expensive proposition) were allegedly proposed by the Federation, but rejected by lawmakers for being too strict.
In its current wording, neither private bloggers nor foundations, companies, or simple link aggregators would have to pay fees for using snippets of copyrighted material were the draft to become law; it is designed to target those who “systematically collect” text samples from websites.
While its wording frankly states that it “should not be misunderstood as a protection offered by policy makers for an old-fashioned, obsolete business model,” critics are painting it as exactly that, and it is not yet clear whether Germany’s parliament will pass it, or how far the idea will be carried in France.
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