Google slams German plans to charge it for news links

Posted by Emma Woollacott

German government proposals to charge search engines for displaying snippets of news articles are coming under fire, with Google drumming up opposition to the plan.

The proposed legislation is based on the idea that, by displaying headlines and snippets of text from news articles, Google is profiting from the work of others - and should pay. France is considering a similar law.

German newspaper publishers, notably Axel Springer, have fought for the new legislation, blaming search engines for the fall in their revenues.

But Google has now launched an online petition against the Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger, or Ancillary Copyright for Press Publishers law, and Mozilla is weighing in to help.

"It will become much more difficult for you to find the information that you seek on the internet," says Google.

And Mozilla - which brings in a fair bit of its revenues via Google - agrees.

"If snippets and headlines require license fees, the ability to locate information may be curtailed as search engines could (and likely will) simply remove the publishers from their index – an approach Google has already taken in Belgium," says Denelle Dixon-Thayer on the company blog. "If this happens, locating the news becomes more difficult."

There are also implications for competition, as charging for links would make it harder for new players to enter the market.

The European Journalism Centre has poured scorn on the proposals, saying that showing snippets of news increases clicks, rather than turning readers off. What's displayed only serves to attract the reader, says EJS consultant Eric Karstens.

"This is as if a newsstand had to pay royalties for exhibiting the papers and magazines it has for sale," he comments.

The bill will come before the German Parliament tomorrow.