Google Asks Germans To Protest 'Pay To Link' Proposal As It Comes Close To Becoming Law
from the dumb-proposals dept
For a few years now, we’ve been following attempts in Germany — mainly driven by newspaper publishers — to create a bizarre new copyright-like right (specifically a “neighbor right”) in “linking” such that a site like Google would have to pay sites that it links to. The bizarre and nonsensical argument is that because a site like Google makes some of its money by linking to sites, those sites “deserve” part of the money. This is problematic for a long list of reasons, not the least of which is it’s fundamentally backwards economically. If sites like Google are making money from directing people to other sites, they’re making money because they provide a valuable service in helping people find the content, not because of the content itself. It’s up to the sites themselves to figure out how to monetize the traffic — not to run to the government to force others to pay. And, if you think this is just a Google issue, you’re wrong. Among the proposals was one that would impact many others, including people posting links on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other sites.
The final proposal would be wide reaching in impact, and make it ridiculous to run a search engine or any kind of aggregator in Germany:
The new section, if introduced, would provide the “producer of news materials” the general “exclusive right to make said materials publicly available, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes,” according to an unofficial translation of the German Government’s proposals.
Others would be permitted to provide “public access” to the publishers’ material unless those providing that access are “commercial operators of search engines or commercial providers of services that aggregate this content in a respective fashion”. News publishers’ right to control the commercial exploitation of their work in this regard would extend for a year after publication. Authors of the work would be entitled to be “provided with a reasonable share of the remunerations issuing from the author’s work”.
The German government is set to take up the issue on Thursday and Google has realized that maybe it should let folks in Germany know that this proposal would seriously cut into their internet services. As Google accurately notes, if the law passes it will mean “higher costs, less information and massive legal uncertainty.” That’s what happens when you insist that content providers who fail to monetize traffic somehow “deserve” money from a third party that is helping people find them.
The logic behind this bill makes no sense. Do we require that GPS service providers pay stores for directing people to where they’re located? Of course not. The very concept is ludicrous. Yet that’s exactly what this bill is doing in Germany.
Most ridiculous of all: if publishers don’t like being in Google’s results, they can already opt-out. So if this was really “piracy” as the publishers claim, they have a solution already at their disposal. But this isn’t about piracy at all, of course. It’s about publishers who haven’t been able to adapt seeing Google make lots of money and getting jealous. So they’re demanding a cut of the money. It’s a sad statement on the nature of both publishers and German copyright law that this proposal is even being seriously considered.