Monday 4 March 2013

German "ancillary copyright" bill: news aggregators may use short excerpts

Readers may remember that last summer this blog reported that German legislators were considering a proposed "ancillary copyright" which would require news aggregators to pay royalties on excerpts of news stories that they link to.
Bloomberg now reports that the Bundestag has agreed a bill which provides that:

- News aggregators may display "single words or very small text excerpts" from to publishers' websites free of charge, however it does not define what constitutes a small excerpt.
- Publishers will be given one year during which they have the sole rights to commercially use their journalistic content. Presumably the above exception applies during this year - perhaps a German-speaking reader could clarify this?

- Mere linking cannot be prohibited.
The bill, which was passed with 293 votes in favor, 243 against and three abstentions, still needs to be ratified by the upper house of the German parliament, the Bundesrat. If it is passed it will be a much weaker version of what German publishers had originally lobbied for, however the European Publishers' Council ignored that in its statement of 1 March, saying that it:

"welcomes today’s decision by the German Bundestag to approve an ancillary copyright for news publishers in law that means that search engines and other aggregators who commercialise publishers' content will no longer be able to do so without permission. The "Leistungsschutzrecht," as it is known in German, will pave the way for commercial negotiations between the parties on the price for the commercial use of publishers' content."
Google has said:

"As a result of today's vote, ancillary copyright in its most damaging form has been stopped. However, the best outcome for Germany would be no new legislation because it threatens innovation, particularly for start-ups. It’s also not necessary because publishers and Internet companies can innovate together, just as Google has done in many other countries."
Predictably neither side appears thrilled with the bill, and this is undoubtedly not the last we will hear of it.

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