Google dodges a German copyright bullet: free news snippets for all

The German parliament will pass a new ancillary copyright law today (the ‘Leistungschutzrecht’) that guarantees that displaying links and snippets will remain free for search engines and aggregators.

It’s a win for Google and a loss for the German publishers who had argued that Google profits from displaying snippetsof their articles when displaying search results. Axel Springer in particular is said to have lobbied hard to pass a “Google Law” that would require Google to pay a licencing fee for displaying the short snippet.

In ‘last minute changes’ to the law, however, legislators accepted the principle that ”search machines and aggregators must have the possibility to describe the search results they are linking to”.

As Der Spiegel reports (let’s hope this snippet is short enough to be free!):

On Tuesday, members of the Bundestag’s Legal Committee with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and its junior coalition partner, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party, agreed to revised language in the bill that would ensure that such “snippets” remained free for Google to use in the future. It would still require a license for use of any content beyond “snippet” length.

I would appreciate someone with some knowledge about the issue explaining how this differs from ‘fair use’, which, as far as I know, has always been an accepted principle?

[SearchEngineLand, Spiegel]

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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