German Chancellor Proposes Special 'Save Newspapers' Copyright Law
from the yeah,-that'll-work dept
It’s beginning to look like German Chancellor Angela Merkel believes the entire point of copyright is not to provide incentive to create, but as a way to hurt Google and protect obsolete local businesses. Last month, we wrote about her complaints concerning the Google book project (where she conveniently left out the fact she had tried to fund the European equivalent). And, now, her party has proposed creating a special new copyright law just for old school news organizations. There aren’t many specifics, other than they want to protect news organizations, and this odd claim:
“The Internet cannot be a copyright-free zone.”
The thing is, it’s not a “copyright-free” zone. But what the internet has shown is that if you put in place dumb copyright laws that do no more than to prop up business models, people will route around them. That’s even more likely to occur if Merkel and her colleagues create a special “protect newspapers” copyright.
The article suggests that the likely proposal would involve “neighboring rights,” which are found in some other areas of copyright law — and would require that the original creator of the content give some kind of permission before any commercial use of the work. So, in theory, any “commercial” aggregator could only aggregate and link to stories from which it has received explicit permission. In other words, it would effectively break the basic premise of the web by not allowing you to summarize and link where you would like.
Not surprisingly, newspaper and magazine publishers in Germany are all for it, though they might want to think twice about that. Just wait until one of their competitors breaks a story, and they’re unable to talk about it without “permission.” Meanwhile, plenty of people who actually have put some thought into this realize that the “commercial/non-commercial” line is not clear at all. Is a personal blogger who puts up some basic ads on his or her site (even if they earn pennies) a “commercial enterprise”? And what about Google News, which doesn’t have ads on the European version of Google News (it only recently put ads on the US version)?
On the whole, this sounds like someone decided they wanted to “help out” the major media companies, but without anyone putting much thought into the actual details or inevitable consequences of such a law. A more cynical person might suggest that this proposal is really designed to gain the current ruling party a bit of support from the mainstream press in Germany…