German Publishers Grant Google A 'Free License' Google Never Needed To Post News Snippets

from the well-that-solves-that dept

Remember earlier this year when German newspaper publishers, led by rights management firm VG Media, demanded Google pay them a massive amount of money (11% of all ad revenue on any page linking to their works) for having the gall to send those publishers traffic via Google News? VG Media insisted that Google’s use of “snippets” was illegal. German regulators rejected this demand, but VG Media was still pursuing legal efforts to force Google to pay. Given that, Google did what made the most sense and removed the snippets for VG Media associated publishers. You’d think that this would make VG Media happy. Instead, it claimed that Google was engaged in “blackmail.”

Yes, VG Media claimed that using snippets was illegal, but getting rid of them was “blackmail.” The logic of a legacy industry.

Taking that logic one step further, VG Media has now decided to (and I’m not making this up) grant Google a “free license” to let Google use the snippets. This whole thing was about money in the first place, and now VG Media isn’t getting any money… and it looks ridiculous and foolish for having tried this in the first place. The end result is the same: snippets are in Google News, VG Media publications are getting traffic, but VG Media has made itself look silly.

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Companies: google, vg media

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Comments on “German Publishers Grant Google A 'Free License' Google Never Needed To Post News Snippets”

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Lord Binky says:

Google needs to decline their offer. Either make them admit Google had a perfectly legitimate use all along, or let them deal with the consequences of their actions.

Forcing Google to pay you for something that they pay no-one else for sounds alot more like blackmail than Google deciding the price of your information is too much for their use of it.

Sheesh, it’s like they some horrid hybrid of the “boy who cried wolf” and “wolf in sheeps clothing”: “The wolf in boys clothing who cried wolf”

That One Guy (profile) says:

The story so far...

“Using snippets of our stories without paying us is criminal!
“Alright, well, we don’t feel like paying you for them, so we’ll just remove them shall we?”
“That’s blackmail!

(5-minutes later, after looking at the projected drop in traffic)

“Hey, Google my friend, out of the kindness of our hearts, we’ve decided to grant you a free liscense to include those snippets, so why don’t you be a pall and put those back in, yes?”

I must say, as far as ways to get themselves out of the hole they dug, this one at least works decently, though they’ve still got to deal with all the egg on their face over their actions.

Google should take them up on the offer, while making it abundantly clear that they still don’t believe it’s needed, as well as stating that if the ‘license'(basically an agreement not to bring legal action) is ever revoked, the snippets will once more be removed.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Actually, after reading the other comments, I changed my mind, they are trying to set a precedent here where companies ‘need’ a license to use snippets, so Google should tell them to take a hike with their ‘offer’, and hold their ground until VG Media publicly admits that Google does not, and never did, need ‘permission’ for including the snippets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

that Google does not, and never did, need ‘permission’ for including the snippets.

But they do. They created a special law for that, the LSR which translates to something like Accomplishment Protection Law. That law says that small parts of an article (length isnt defined in the law, 3words? 5 words? a sentence? who knows!) are protected for one year after their first publication. So if Google would use them it would be a copyright violation and because of that they do need a free licence/permission.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

The trouble with that is that a) courts cost, and b) it could go either way, depending on how thick the judge is.

If Google refuses the license and points out how VG Media’s failure to understand how the internet and search engines work is the problem, it’ll solve the problems it’s having with the same issues in other countries. This unwarranted rent-seeking has got to stop.

Anonymous Coward says:

Love it! VG Media lobbyed hard for a special law and now they don’t use it but still the law is there.
i.e. let’s assume you want to create a site in German that talks about news articles and you take a small quotes from articles to make fun of them. Also because you want to cover the server cost you put a small ad on it or something that generates a bit of income.
Now because of that great new law that isn’t used for what it was intended for the newspaper or whoever owns the article you quoted can sue you for money.

Anonymous Coward says:

although it would be a bit costly, Google should now go back to court to get this ‘license’ deemed unnecessary and claim expenses be paid by VG Media. if Google just sits back now, VG Media will claim that everyone needs a license, using Google as the example. the fact that they ‘gave Google the license for free’ just means they were very generous in that instance.

Peter says:

Statutory loophole

VG Media believes that publishers lose money one way or the other: either by generating revenue through Google-caused traffic but not receiving licensing fees from Google or by not receiving either. But, as this press release announcing the “free license” suggests (, VG Media believes that this situation was intentionally created by German lawmakers and that German lawmakers intend for this situation to be remedied by Google surrendering to the publishers a share of its revenue generated with snippets of so-called Presseerzeugnisse (press products): “Der Umgang Googles mit den VG Media Presseverlegern läuft der erklärten Absicht des Gesetzgebers bei der Einführung des Presseleistungsschutzrechts zuwider, wonach ein Ausgleich geschaffen werden sollte für die Übernahme der verlegerischen Leistungen durch Betreiber von Suchmaschinen” (roughly translated: “How Google has been dealing with VG Media press publishers runs contrary to the intention declared by lawmakers when they introduced the ancillary copyright, under which compensation is supposed to be rendered by search engine operators for their take-over of the labors of the press”).

If this understanding of the law and lawmakers’ intentions is accurate (and I doubt that it is), it looks like a classic example of a statutory loophole and a declared intention of wanting to exploit it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Let 'Em Die

Chronological Summary Of VG Media Statements:
1) Google is stealing our content – we demand to be paid.
2) Google has stopped stealing our content – that’s blackmail.
3) We have to let Google steal our content or go out of business.

Coming soon:
4) We are lying, thieving morons – stop laughing at us.

I’d like to see Google release a statement reporting their cessation of all links to VGM content, i.e., no links either from news snippets or search results for content – not even headlines – originating in domains of VGM members, with the explanation that the law is too vague about what is allowed. Google should make clear that it will not tolerate being described as an extortionistic monopoly, and has elected not to accept special license from VGM under the cloud of such characterization, since such acceptance would appear to affirm both extortion and monopolism at the expense of the rights of other Internet entities.

This has the dual virtues of strangling VGM’s free advertising and Internet existence to death and forcing clarification of the law.

Finally, I’d hope that Google would return VGM to its news and search results ONLY if and when the law was clarified in a way that allows Google and everyone else to use snippets in the fashion Google had originally been doing without need of “license” from VGM.

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