It seems Germany’s new copyright law went into effect today. This law, which is best described as a tax on search engines, was written on behalf of German publishers with the goal of forcing Google and other search engines to pay for the privilege of sending traffic the the publishers’ websites.
So far that new law doesn’t seem to have accomplished anything. Google News is still showing links and snippets from major German media companies this morning, and no one seems to be crowing about having made Google pay. That tells me that many have caved and agreed to the new TOS for Google News.
Back in June Google changed the terms for the German branch of Google News from opt-out to opt-in, making it so website owners had to explicitly allow Google to use the snippets without paying any type of license fee.
According to some, the fight isn’t over. Axel Springer AG was one of the media companies that caved, and they are still planning to one day make Google pay for the free advertising – somehow.
I am not at all surprised that the media companies caved. After all, Google gives them far too much free advertising for them to walk away. What’s more, the snippets used for the free advertising is worth more to the media companies than to Google. That means that Google has the least to lose if the snippets and related links are removed from Google’s search results.
Frankly, Google has all the power here. They might not have managed to outbid the German media companies for control of the Bundestag this time around, but what this comes down to is that Google was the only one who could have afforded to get up from the table.
This has of course happened before. Several years ago Google was sued by a coalition of Belgian newspapers for infringement. Google lost and then complied with the ruling by removing the plaintiffs’ content from Google News. Naturally those newspapers caved and gave Google permission to use the snippets again – much like what German media companies have done today.
Again, I’m not surprised.