Proposed Licensing For Newspaper Snippets Could Threaten Users Of Blogs, Facebook And Twitter In Germany

from the triumph-of-the-dinosaurs dept

A few months ago we wrote about a really bad idea that was being floated in Germany: making companies like Google pay for the use of news snippets in services such as Google News. Unfortunately, that idea has now been turned into a concrete proposal for a new law; remarkably, it is even worse than the original plans.

As Udo Vetter points out in a post entitled “Digitally Castrated” (German original), the emphasis of the proposed modification to German copyright law (available as pdf) has shifted: now the primary targets of the law are not only companies like Google, but also ordinary people who blog or post short excerpts of news stories on Facebook or even Twitter, who may be required to obtain a special new license to do so.

Vetter suggests this is because the German publishers have realised that Google would probably rather close down its Google News site in Germany than pay for each snippet, and so they have decided to go after an Internet group who make up in numbers what they lack in revenue: German users of blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

They are likely to be affected because two aspects of the proposed law are vague. It would apparently apply to anyone who makes money from their online writing, and that seems to include things like a few Google Ads or a micropayment system like Flattr. The other uncertainty is what exactly is allowed in the way of unlicensed excerpts from articles. The proposal explicitly mentions that quotations that are currently legal will remain legal. But as Vetter points out, a recent German court decision established that even very short excerpts could be infringing, which effectively guts that apparent safeguard.

This creates a gray area of what will be lawful for ordinary Internet users. And that, in its turn, will create an opportunity for publishers to send out huge numbers of threatening letters to bloggers and others that have quoted from newspapers and magazines. Since few of the latter will have the resources to defend themselves in court, most will simply give in and pay for one of the new licenses the legislation would create.

This will doubtless have a chilling effect on German blogging, and by extension on the use of quotations from newspapers in German Facebook posts and on Twitter too, since users will hardly be keen to fight major battles against well-funded publishers to establish the exact contours of the new law.

The end-result could be a disaster for German blogging, microblogging and social networks. Freedom of speech would inevitably suffer, as people hesitate to challenge articles published in newspapers and magazines for fear of running afoul of the new rules. Old media will be back in the driver’s seat — exactly as the publishers doubtless planned when they lobbied for this law.

One hope is that the extreme nature of this proposal will shock enough people into protesting against it — the massive street demonstrations against ACTA showed what the German Internet community is capable of. The other is that, if the worst comes to the worst, and it is passed in its current form, the new copyright law would surely alienate so many users of popular platforms like blogs and social networks that the German Pirate party would find itself propelled to even greater political power.

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Comments on “Proposed Licensing For Newspaper Snippets Could Threaten Users Of Blogs, Facebook And Twitter In Germany”

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bob says:

Nothing to see here

Nope, absolutely nothing to see here. The definition of copyright hasn’t changed; it’s perfectly within the IP and paywall rights of restaurant chefs to prohibit stupid consumers from taking photographs of their food, and it’s absolutely reasonable for CEOs to demand SOPA-like laws so they can demand takedowns of parody and satire. You idiots decided to block SOPA; you can all suck this up because you deserve it. Why do you hate paywalls, Pirate Chicken Little Mike?


Anonymous Coward says:

if there is a way to make money, increase copyright protection for those who are too useless to compete with new methods and technology and silence as many of the ‘outside competitors’ as possible, all at the same time, some arse hole will find it. this whole copyright thing has gotten way out of hand now, to the point that so many are suffering from the fear of law suits, i am convinced that new technology is being held back. but maybe, yet again, this is the ultimate ploy?

Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile) says:

WHAT are publishers ? ........ that [submit] button ?

How far will it go…. I mean, will commentary on the story also be liable for a charge ?
That would be a “remix” of the original story.
You can speculate that even sharing an opinion about a story, without the CopyPasta, could be “infringement”.

This is a hasty move at “surface mining” profits.
Fuck the consequences, just rip the face off the internet !


Play Nicely says:

Re: Will not happen!!!

i fear this is not going to be possible. as i understand it the proposed law specifically “protects” only professional journalism, which is conveniently defined as for-profit and through a publisher.

so a “professional” article could cite and use a blogpost like before, while that same blogger may not be allowed to do the same with the very article that cited him.

bear in mind that it might not suffice to remove ads and flattr-buttons to be considered non-commercial. if what you comment on or blog about has any connection to your day job or career (e.g. a lawyer blogging about the law) you might already be considered commercial.

so the beneficiaries are the so-called professionals (which are arbitrarily narrowly defined) and the ones paying the bills are the so-called commercial users (which are arbitrarily broadly defined). it is, like much of imaginary property law, basically a legal extortion scheme for the big and established players with the extra benefit of limiting free speech.

ethorad (profile) says:

What they really mean

“German publishers have realised that Google would probably rather close down its Google News site in Germany than pay for each snippet”

Or rather they know that the snippets aren’t worth anything, and Google isn’t making enough from their German Google News site to support any fees. So instead they’ll bully people who don’t know better.

After all, if they believed there was money in German Google News, and that their snippets were a core part of that then they’d be targetting Google.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hmm… why do the rich complain that everyone hates them because government is deep in their pockets… when all the draconian economic laws being proposed lately all seem from some odd ‘coincidence’ to heavily benefit people who got rich off of old legacy industries that are starting to die out from new technology and competition?

Sapphireb (profile) says:

Time for a boycott

I think it is time to boycott big media. Maybe Google can get the ball rolling by removing big German media sites from Google search results in protest of the potential new law. That is one way of getting the attention of big media and letting them know they are being jerks. Bottom line for everybody around the world is don’t give money to those who would lobby to have your freedoms taken away. That means not buying or consuming big media products such as movies, music, games, books and newspapers etc. They need us more than we need them remember that.

Adam (profile) says:

Pay for Snippets

Isn’t this a really counter-productive solution for the newspapers? After all, part of their “community” is out there with the bloggers and commentators. They’re simply cutting off some of their readers and they’re certainly screwing themselves for linkers to their site and starting a war with their most avid readers; the bloggers. There’s no need for a boycott; they’re walling themselves in.

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