Germany Trying to Cut Publishers In on Web Profits

 

Source: NY Times.

 

PARIS — In a move aimed at helping newspapers generate new revenue from struggling online operations, the German government intends to require search engines and other Internet companies to pay publishers whose content they highlight.

The German governing coalition, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said last week that it planned to introduce legislation to create a new kind of copyright for online publishers. Under the proposal, Internet aggregators and search engines would have to pay the publishers if they wanted to display all or parts of their articles — even small snippets like those that are shown in search links.

The proposal was cheered by German publishers, who complain that Internet companies like Google have profited hugely from their content, while generating only scraps of digital revenue.

“In the digital age, such a right is essential to protect the joint efforts of journalists and publishers,” the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers said, adding that it was “an essential measure for the maintenance of an independent, privately financed news media.”

But the announcement set off howls of protest from Internet companies and bloggers, who said the proposal could threaten free speech and stunt the development of the digital economy in Germany.

“I fear that such a regulation would slow down the development of the Internet because it creates additional costs and leads to inefficiencies,” Eric E. Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, told the news agency DPA during a visit to the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover, Germany, last week. “The Internet is an important component of Germany’s economic success. That’s why one has to be careful with such changes.”

Mr. Schmidt did not give specific examples, but analysts have suggested that some news aggregators might simply shut down their operations in Germany, rather than pay the fees.

The proposal, in an announcement of the coalition’s legislative agenda, follows intense lobbying by publishers, after the idea was initially put forward several years ago.

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Categories: Internet, Technology

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