German Newspaper 'Snippet' Law Passes: Watered Down, But Still Stupid

from the how-small-is-smallest? dept

For a year now, Techdirt has been following the sorry saga of Germany’s attempt to make search engines and others pay for licenses to show even small excerpts from online newspapers. The main motivation seems to be to take money from Google for being successful, and to give it to the German publishers that are struggling.

Even though the idea that newspapers were suffering because of the short excerpts shown as part of search results is absurd, and existing copyright law already forbids unauthorized use of longer extracts, publishers had enough friends in the German parliament to get the “snippets” law pushed through today. However, along the way, a small amendment was made to the text that makes it slightly less damaging. According to the new wording (pdf – German original), quotations will have to be licensed unless they are:

single words or the smallest excerpts

Unhelpfully, no definition for “smallest excerpts” is given, which means there is still considerable uncertainty over just how many words can be quoted without paying a licensing fee. That’s bound to have a chilling effect on the use of snippets, as publications err on the side of caution before court cases begin to establish what is and isn’t acceptable. Another issue is whether quotations in blogs or on social networks will be exempt: according to the German magazine Der Spiegel they will (“probably”, in the case of Facebook). But again, we won’t know for sure until cases come to court.

Happily, there is still some doubt over whether the law will ever come into force. According to Der Spiegel again, the SPD (Socialist Party) may be able to overturn the law in Germany’s other legislative body, the Bundesrat. Let’s hope it succeeds, and saves Germany from the embarrassment of trying to implement such a backward-looking and unworkable law.

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Comments on “German Newspaper 'Snippet' Law Passes: Watered Down, But Still Stupid”

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39 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Only problem I can see with this Ninja is via the wording “online newspapers”.

I’m wondering if foreign publishers will be able to collect as well or if this article just is missing some of the legal-ese to explain it’s just the German papers that the country wants to drive out of business.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘publishers had enough friends in the German parliament to get the “snippets” law pushed through today’

yet another example of something ridiculous happening because the USA allowed, even encouraged, the music and movie industries to go down the road of extorting money out of anywhere and anyone, rather than encouraging those industries to adapt, to progress, to listen to others than to just themselves and produce things for today’s market. the stupidity of what was started has spread like a plague, making the successes of a few the means to a permanent income for doing nothing new, to others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let’s hope it succeeds, and saves Germany from the embarrassment of trying to implement such a backward-looking and unworkable law.

I take exception with your calling one of Europe’s highly progressive laws backward. You must maintain a solid forward looking progressive attitude that fully promotes the underclass at the expense of those damn Republicans.

What can we expect next? For you to call the New York Times conservative.

Rapnel (profile) says:

It’s been said that knowledge is power. If knowledge and information is not free or is taxed, censured, unduly private or the ownership and control is maintained and extended beyond a reasonable amount of time then the longer moneyed interests can control the dissemination of knowledge and information and the longer we can be a somewhat controllable population?

Then the next thing you know it will be discovered that your local nationwide bank is in a concerted effort with government to track and monitor and plan coordinated contingencies against the people. Oh wait..

Why are there a handful of, theoretically elected, political people facilitating this,, as was mentioned up in post#2, plague? Because it is a rather nasty situation and it’s not looking good. Don’t you think these folks would be uncomfortable with their head up their butts and for so long? I guess the RIAA/MPAA told certain folks it feels good to have your head up there. Something.

single words or snippets? “Your Mama.”

Nick Ashton-Hart says:

It gets better … according to a German colleague, the word that we translate as ‘smallest’ is, in German, a word that can mean smallest number of words – or actually smallest in literal size.

Hard to imagine something less clear … or more likely to result in lots of wasted time in court. Great for law firms though.

Gwiz (profile) says:

single words or the smallest excerpts

**whew** We all dodged a bullet there.

Otherwise, anybody writing pretty much anything in German on the internet would owe the publishers of German online newspapers money for all the words they are “copying”.

I don’t know German, but can you imagine all the revenue they would have generated from the equivalents of “the” or “and”?

special-interesting (profile) says:

How would anyone be able to even mention newspaper news socially on a blog site at all? This the same thing as prohibiting all social discussion of the news? Enforcement of such a law would be like suppression, oppression. How about making backyard fence gossip illegal while they are at it? I see news aggregation sites as nothing more than harmless gossip.

A law like this would effectively put a black-out on all things german. What a huge PR mistake could that be? Come visit Germany: just don’t quote the news in your e-mail letters (or your family blog spot) to home.

How could any piece of legislation leave the details to the court system? Isn’t that just saying lets try to ?get away with whatever we can?? How bad can the German legislators be to skip out on the details of a law. Its like leaving the answer blank on a test and expecting to get credit for it anyway. I think they need a homeroom teacher to oversee and make them show their work (so to speak). Sloppy legislation at best.

I must be appalled (there are so many question marks after my sentences).

This is just another attempt at dying business models, in this case newspaper industry, struggling to force into law monopolistic methods regardless of the collateral damage.

Anonymous Coward says:

It is no small stretch of the imagination to see Google de-listing German newspapers as a result should this become law. It already does this for search results complained about by the US entertainment industry in the attempt to block infringement.

How would this be any different since they are demanding payment for even small snippets, meaning that the whole site should be blocked on the odd chance something could be searched, such as a snippet?

This same cure will work with German newspapers, that the Belgium newspapers got for their demands.

techflaws (profile) says:

Re: Re:

According to Der Spiegel again, the SPD (Socialist Party) may be able to overturn the law in Germany’s other legislative body, the Bundesrat.

BTW, the Bundesrat cannot overturn the law. Since it’s an “Einspruchsgesetz” the SPD can only force the law to be reconsidered in the mediation committee which may make some amendments or withold approval in which case it gets send back to the Bundestag where again the coalition will pass the law.

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