Thursday, June 26, 2014

[Update] German VG Media going after Google

According to this web site, German publishers have filed a complaint against Google with the German competition watchdog agency Bundeskartellamt.

The intellectual property rights association VG Media is one of the plaintiffs.

VG Media is an addition to the roster of German intellectual property rights associations, in this case the rights of private tv and radio companies plus 12 print publishers, among them some of the biggest names in German print media.

Last year, Germany passed a law that entitles print companies to some compensation when search engines link to their sites and make money off of these links. The prominent example was Google News.

The law has an exception for small pieces of text (we'd call them snippets) without defining them. This, as anybody understands, opens the door to legal hell.

Google offered companies to opt out of the aggregation service, and Google does not display ads in the Google News section.

Still, German publishers are unhappy and are trying to force Google to pay up.

In Germany, the royalty business is big and lawyered up indeed, as not only Google but other companies know.
Multiple fees are paid by consumers when they buy electronic devices, from usb sticks to printers and others if the device can be used to store copies of copyrighted content.

To our nitpicking TheEditor this poses a question. Say, some money from the fees you pay goes to Media Empire A, then a friend sends you a song by a band under contract to A. A can go after you for quite a bit of money for infringement even though they are happy to collect cash from a device fee.
The legal details of this edge case are not important. It just shows a business model.

If. on the other hand, VG Media ties one of their fee schedules explictly to a GEMA fee, who cares?
VG Media specifies that clients pay "20% of the respective GEMA schedule" for radio broadcasts.

And then there is the Bund der Gemazahler e.V., a helping hand for license users, offering 20% discounts on GEMA and VG Media fees.

Screenshots available on request.

As to the inclusion into or exclusion from a search engine index, TheEditor has no sympathy with companies that do not know how to use a "robots.txt".

Ironically, companies in Germany are going to court to get included in the Google search index.

The German part of the web is a rather boring place anyhow, with all sorts of legal traps, from a missing disclaimer saying links are not an endorsement to a simple statement like "this nastygram will expire on 1.1.2020" potentially getting you a law suit for illegal legal advice.

Can you imagine the outcry if, for example, Google and Microsoft entered into a contract to set fees for German publishers?

[Update Preisgestaltung]

[Update 22 August 2014] German competition watchdog Bundeskartellamt says no to the publishers' complaint, and in no uncertain terms (the article behind the link is in German).

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