German Publishers Still Upset That Google Sends Them Traffic Without Paying Them Too; File Lawsuit

from the your-honor,-how-dare-they-send-us-traffic dept

Oh boy. Remember VG Media? That’s the consortium of German news publishers who were so damn angry that Google News sends them all sorts of traffic without also paying them. A year and a half ago, they demanded money from Google. That failed, so they went crying to German regulators who laughed off the request. After there were some concerns that a new “ancillary copyright” right regime in Germany might require payment for posting such snippets, Google properly responded by removing the snippets for those publishers, who totally freaked out and called it blackmail.

Let me repeat that for you, in case you missed it: the publishers insisted that Google’s News search was somehow illegal and taking money away from them, and thus they demanded money from Google. When Google responded, instead, by removing the snippets providing summaries to their stories, the publishers claimed it was unfair and blackmail. In short, not only do these German publishers want Google to pay them to send them traffic, they want such payments and traffic to be mandatory.

However, with Google removing the snippets, VG Media granted a “free” license to Google just to get the snippets back into Google News — even though Google didn’t need such a license. Meanwhile, they complained to German competition authorities about this supposed “blackmail” and like the earlier regulators, the German competition authorities told VG Media to go pound sand.

If you thought the situation was over, you underestimated the short-sightedness of VG Media and the German publishers. They’ve now apparently filed a lawsuit against Google over all this, taking the issue into court. Again: this is all because Google is sending their websites traffic… for free.

Meanwhile, these geniuses at the German publishers might want to actually play out this game strategy a little further. Should they actually win the case, they need to look no further than Spain to see what might happen. Remember, Spain passed a ridiculous law that not only put such a tax on aggregators but made it mandatory. It was clearly nothing more than a “Google tax” for Spanish publishers. Google’s response? It pulled out the nuclear option and shut down Google News in Spain.

So even if VG Media and the German publishers “win” this lawsuit, there’s a decent chance that they still end up shooting themselves in their collective foot, by pushing away one of the most popular news aggregators that drives a tremendous amount of traffic. It really makes you wonder about the thought process of the folks who run VG Media.

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Companies: google, vg media

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Comments on “German Publishers Still Upset That Google Sends Them Traffic Without Paying Them Too; File Lawsuit”

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55 Comments
MDT (profile) says:

Not really...

It really makes you wonder about the thought process of the folks who run VG Media.

No, I don’t wonder at all about their thought process…

…I am rather curious if they actually have a thought process, but I’m not in the least bit curious about what convoluted Machiavellian brain damaged process is actually at work inside their skulls.

David says:

Re: Not really...

Well, the thought process is pretty straightforward. When they look at Google, they see money in media. They now meticulously follow the same procedures as sharks when tasting/smelling (what does one call this for gill-breathers?) blood in water. Afterwards there are fewer small sharks.

Anonymous Coward says:

When it comes time and Google blocks all news traffic searches to Germany, I wonder what sort of blackmail claims they will make then?

Being as this would be a second time it happened, were I Google, I would hold their noses to the grindstone a bit longer than necessary to ensure that they got the message of no more fucking around or do within the internet finding their members.

My next question is why are we not hearing about Bing and Yahoo! facing the same lawsuits?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My next question is why are we not hearing about Bing and Yahoo! facing the same lawsuits?

If you can force the biggest company in the market to give in to your demands, it becomes insanely easy to do the same to the smaller companies. ‘We were willing to spend the money needed to force them to accept our demands, unless you want the same treatment, pay up’.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My next question is why are we not hearing about Bing and Yahoo! facing the same lawsuits?

Because the process is still under development. Once they get it to run without crashing on the Dev server, they roll it out to Testing, then Production is when they get rich once they know they can get away with it without anyone in the way who might stop them.

Then again, Bing and Yahoo! barely even exist in Europe so there’s no money in going after them.

David says:

Re: Question

VG media is an association of publishers. It’s sort of like the book RIAA. They are not responsible for books but money. They are the ones responsible for reimbursing authors for anything outside of direct sales contracts.

So it’s not surprising that they consider the citation business of Google to be right in their front yard. And that getting that hobo of the lawn might be worth it to them to dig up the whole lawn and pretend to plant roses.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Question

It would seem that they’re already past the stage of ripping up the lawn and have moved on to the fertilizing of the soil step, because their actions and arguments absolutely reek of bullshit. Google should not only be forced to carry snippets, they should be forced to pay for them? Enough ‘fertilizer’ for a dozen fields there.

John85851 (profile) says:

It really makes you wonder about the thought process of the folks who run VG Media.
The thought process is: Google is showing a snippet of my story so they must be making off of it somehow. I don’t know how, but somehow. Therefore, I want a cut of that income because it’s mine.
I don’t care if people are coming to my site and it’s my webmaster’s job to monetize that traffic- I want a cut of whatever Google is making.

And what’s Bing and Yahoo? Google is the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: German publishers can set up a pay wall

The problem is that is like “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.” and expecting people to find them.

Thanks to Douglas Adams for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quote.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Persistence from whiny children

I think at this point their ‘strategy’, if you can call it that, is to hope that Google gets tired of taking the matter to court, and just starts handing over money. Thing is though, Google cannot, even once, give in to such demands, because the second they do they will be flooded by demands for payment from companies and publishers across the globe.

It’s an annoyance now, but if they cave even once it’ll become a serious problem, so they really have no other choice but to fight, pulling out of entire countries if need be, as the alternative is a death of a thousand cuts.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The fact that they are given this many bites at the apple really should be raising serious concerns for Germany.
Rather than adapt & compete they have pursued the actions so successful for others – crying to the government & demanding laws to get them money.

How much longer can we keep holding corporations hands before it will finally be time to tell them to keep peddling and learn to ride the bike without everyone else paying for more training wheels?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Absurd

That’s not absurd, since the cost of the phone book is generally not charged to the people the phone company is giving them to, and the costs have to be covered somewhere (probably with a hidden charge on the bill rather than a specific payment). Although my recollection of how that worked may admittedly be fuzzy.

This is more like demanding that the yellow pages pays you every time a customer calls after finding your number in their book.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What if I told you that a German court just ruled that you in a way own the stuff you link to if the link goes to a specific sub page?

i.e. a link to techdirt.com is ok but if I link to techdirt.com/articles/20160106/11082433256/ I’d be responsible for what is on the site if someone uses/finds the link on my site.

And people wonder why we don’t have huge internet startups in the EU.

Anonymous Coward says:

There was/is a secondary reason that the big Spanish publishers wanted that law.
Not just to get Google to pay up but also to shutdown smaller aggregators so that there would be less access to other sources of news. Basically get more control over what people read/browse by removing easy access to the competition.
This could be a factor in Germany as well, especially seeing that the same group(s) behind the google needs to pay for news snippets in Germany were also behind the writing of the Spanish law.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: proverbs

Someone needs to look in to how similar the proverb “never bite the hand that feeds you” looks to the phrase “never stop biting the hand that feeds you” in German.

According to Google Translate:

Nicht die Hand, die dich füttert beißt.

Word for word (ie not adjusting word order): not the hand, that you feeds bite.

Nie aufhören, die Hand beißen, die einen füttert.

Never stop, the hand biting, that you feeds.

vaubeh77 (profile) says:

u guys dont get it

ur no.1 source for news google? google is your only news source, so who is creating the news, the articles, who pays the journalists, the writers? google does nothing for them they just use their work for their newssite, so if you run a newscompany you do the work and you must be lucky and thankful that you get some traffic from google? wtf hell yeah google should be sued for sure, and all you freaks here who have clearly no idea how google is hurting all these mediacompanies open your eyes and dont help one company to big and powerful already to destroy a lot of smaller companies.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: u guys dont get it

Yeah, might want to do a little research on the subject before commenting on it, because you know who absolutely knows what value Google provides to the publishers by notably increasing traffic their way?

The publishers.

That’s why every time they’ve tried this trick, ‘Pay us to provide snippets of our stuff!’, Google calls their bluff by simply removing the snippets, and without fail the publishers throw an even bigger fit, and beg to be relisted, because they know full well that while Google benefits from people using it’s service to find news, those providing the news benefit from the traffic Google sends them.

If a site doesn’t want to be listen in Google’s results, it’s simple enough to modify the site such that it won’t show up on Google news, yet they not only haven’t done that, at least one of them specifically used Google’s tools to increase their ranking on the service.

‘With the German papers, they can opt-out of being in Google just as easily as the Belgian papers could have done back in 2006. They even have more granular control, where Google gave assurances to Italian publishers in 2011 that opting out of Google News didn’t mean they’d be dropped from Google entirely. But even before then, to my understanding, it was always the case you could request to be dropped from Google News but still be in Google Search in general.

In short, if the German publishers feel Google is unfairly infringing on their rights without payment, Google has a good argument that they’ve been failing to prevent this using industry-standard practices that every one of those publishers absolutely has to know.’

Indeed, Axel Springer’s Bild publication — one of its largest — makes use of Google publisher code to assist its appearance in Google search results

This type of thing — along with any evidence that any of these publications are using Google sitemap lists, implementing Google Authorship or making use of Google Webmaster Tools — will go to demonstrating that the publishers aren’t somehow being swept up into Google’s results against their wills.

Rather, they show the publishers are actively trying to leverage Google for free traffic — and after gaining it, demanding that Google also pay them for the privilege.

Source

vb (profile) says:

Re: Re: u guys dont get it

its ok that google uses all data they crawl from me for free, im fine with it.
but you have to understand if you a company that depends to sell data(news) you getting angry if another even bigger newssite uses your work for their profit and gives you nothing.
you know why facebook and googleservices free even windows 10?
they make their profit with your data, you ok with it just you dont have any way to sell your data to someone or you happy about all those little (free) services they provide you, but thats totaly different when you run a news company.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: u guys dont get it

but you have to understand if you a company that depends to sell data(news) you getting angry if another even bigger newssite uses your work for their profit and gives you nothing.

Which ignores the fact that the publishers are absolutely getting something from the relationship they have with Google News, which is why when Google removes the snippets from their service without fail they beg to have them restored and/or go legal to try and force Google to carry them and pay for doing so.

Google gets people to use their service, the publishers get increased traffic, it’s a symbiotic relationship, with both benefiting from the other, and it only gets mucked up when the publishers get greedy and demand to be paid on top of the free traffic Google sends them. At that point Google demonstrates that despite their claims the publishers have no problem being listed on Google’s service, they just want Google to pay for the ‘privilege’ of listing them.

vb says:

Re: Re: Re:2 u guys dont get it

google is using their work(news) for their own traffic! only a few news get klicked and get increased traffic and only those rankend high enough, and why should google decide whos getting it you underestimate the power they get from this, they control the news with it and im happy im in europe/germany where still people fighting against those datacrawling monster companies. i dont say they use it in a bad way now, but its scary as fuck some companies know more about me then the gestapo or stasi ever did, i guess they would be very happy, like the nsa and all your other american agencys now, sorry for getting offtopic

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 u guys dont get it

google is using their work(news) for their own traffic!

I think you’re still missing the one key factor here: VG Media &ct. are demanding that Google keep doing exactly this.

If Google using the publishers’ work is bad, then shouldn’t it be to VGM’s benefit to have them stop? In other words, if Google is stealing from them, wouldn’t they want the theft to stop? Well, they don’t. They want Google to be required by law to continue committing this crime while paying for the ‘right’ (obligation) to do so.

VG Media wants Google to make money for them, they want Google to pay them more money for making money for them, and they want Google to be required by law to do so forever. It doesn’t matter how evil or invasive Google may be regarding other aspects of its services: the only issue here is the paradox of forcing someone to pay for the right to make money for other people.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: u guys dont get it

GoogleNews the biggest Newswebsite in the world, yet it employs no journalists or writers.

Of course they don’t. What they do do is tell anyone who’s looking for your stuff where to find your stuff (assuming you’re a journalist or writer), for free! If you don’t want them promoting your stuff for anyone who’s looking for it, it’s very easy to get them to stop. The people running your web server know how easily that’s done.

Yet you want Google to pay you to promote your stuff?!? Why would they want to do that? Note, Google’s not doing anything very much different from all the other search engines out there. They just do it better and have become the standard for many people searching the web. There’s no magic involved and they’re not bribing politicians to pass laws to undercut their competition.

So, what’s to complain about? That Google’s good at what they do? Aw, too bad.

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