Google has launched a public campaign over new laws in Germany that would force the web giant to pay newspaper publishers for using article extracts in Google News.
The campaign that calls from ordinary Germans to “defend your web” has been instigated prior to the first vote on the proposed legislation on the Bundestag, scheduled for this evening.
Google Germany chief, Stefan Tweraser, commented: “Such a law would hit every Internet user in Germany,” claiming that by forcing search engines to pay publishers when people click through to articles could cut citizens off from vital information.
“An ancillary copyright means less information for consumers and higher costs for companies,” added Tweraser.
As Google has almost a complete monopoly on the German web search market the proposals would effectively extend copyright forcing the search engine to pay to index and link to newspaper and magazine content online.
Google has hit back at the German Government’s argument that Google makes serious money harvesting snippets of content and presenting it beside paid-for adverts on Google news by saying it’s, currently free, service delivers web traffic to content producers.
Though Google has not publically disclosed how much it makes from Google News in 2008 its then head of search, Marissa Mayer, estimated the annual revenues at around $100 million, a figure which has likely grown in the last four years. Though Germany’s share of such revenues is likely to be small, it it’s the potential of this law which Google fears most. Just last month French president François Hollande pressed Google to discuss a similar payment model with him.
The European Commission has also indicated support for the plans, with Michel Barnier quoted earlier in the month saying: “Think of newspaper publishers who see the content they produce being used by others to attract consumers on the net and generate advertising revenues.”
If changes like this were to come into effect Google has already threatened to stop linking to the likes of French news stories all together. Claiming such changes would threaten its “very existence”.
German political figures have already fired back at Google’s campaign labelling it “cheap propaganda,” with Bundestag members Guenter Krings and Ansgar Heveling commenting: “Under the guise of a supposed project for the freedom of the Internet, an attempt is being made to coopt its users for its own lobbying.”