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.