German Publishers Cave, Grant Google Free Permission to Use Snippets in Search Results

German Publishers Cave, Grant Google Free Permission to Use Snippets in Search Results Antitrust Google Intellectual Property Google's 4-month-long fight with German news publishers over license fees for search result snippets came to a close today when the publishers threw in the towel.

VG Media, the rights management firm which 200 German publishers had intended to use to collect the fees, announced on Wednesday that they would be granting Google a free license to use the snippets, saying that they were "forced to this extraordinary step, given the overwhelming market power of Google".

In short, this latest effort to force Google to pay for the privilege of sending web traffic to other websites failed as completely as past attempts. This both is and isn't a surprise in that for once the publishers had the law on their side, but given Google's past refusal to pay similar fees (they'd rather remove links from search results) I am not surprised that Google prevailed again.

This fight started in June of this year when VG Media started legal proceedings against Google, alleging that Google was violating German law. They asked to be awarded 11% of Google's revenues based on, well, I'm not quite what they were smoking.

German Publishers Cave, Grant Google Free Permission to Use Snippets in Search Results Antitrust Google Intellectual Property

But I do know that VG Media had based its claim on a law passed in Germany in August 2013, which had been written to cover pretty much this situation. It explicitly granted publishers the right to license their content or parts thereof, except in the case of single words or very small text snippets.

Unfortunately for the publishers, German regulators didn't see things the same way. In August the Bundeskartellamt rejected the antitrust complaint filed by VG Media, and while at first it looked like VG Media would win on the license front earlier this month Google announced that they would stop using excerpts from the websites belonging to the publishers behind VG Media.

To be clear, Google would still link to the sites, but it would not use snippets. This puts the publishers at a disadvantage compared to other news sites in the search results.

While VG Media might have a legal right to demand the license fees, they didn't have any way to force Google to use the snippets (that is what the antitrust complaint was supposed to accomplish, I kid you not). And without that, the publishers have two choices: either give up the free traffic Google sends them or let Google use the snippets for free.

VG Media chose the latter option, just like I predicted. This is not the first time that a European publisher has tried to get Google to pay for the use of snippets, for the most part Google came out ahead each time.

Even when Google initially lost, as in the case of the copyright infringement suit filed against  Google in Belgium, the search engine giant came out ahead. In that case, after Google complied with the ruling and delisted the websites which had sued Google, it was then accused of punishing the sites by no longer sending them web traffic.

Eventually the Belgian sites had to agree to let Google list them for free - which is exactly what VG Media did today.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

13 Comments

  1. William D. O'Neil22 October, 2014

    About all you can say for this attempt (and that in Belgium) is that they created some needed economic activity, even if it was to the benefit of some not-too honest lawyers. Schwer dumm!

    Reply
  2. bfids23 October, 2014

    Yet the legislation, which those publishers had pushed forward before their attempts to ask money for their snippets, still exists and now hurts smaller search engines who cannot list these snippets for free, for that exception has only been granted for Google so far. I’m just waiting for some smaller search engine to file a complaint against those publishers for forming a cartel that now grants Google an unfair advantage by only offering that particular giant web search provider to use their snippets for free.

    Reply
  3. […] German Publishers Cave, Grant Google Free Permission to Use Snippets in Search Results […]

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  4. […] since recent events have shown that Google would rather not use excerpts than pay such license fees, I see the very real possibility that this proposed law might be pushed to cover links as well. […]

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  5. […] in the search results. In this context, and against all odds, the same old group of publishers announced the intention to grant Google a free license to use those kind of […]

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  6. […] past attempts to collect fees from Google, including the one which just failed in Germany a couple months ago, news publishers left themselves a way out should their extortion efforts fail. Even the greediest […]

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  7. Google Opens Applications For $170M DNI Innovation Fund – CEO Business Journal25 February, 2016

    […] to provide consumers with news. Some have held out against Google while others have caved in somewhat reluctantly to a company that essentially dominates how people navigate to information on the Internet […]

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  8. EU Commission Wants Google to Pay a Licensing Fee - Set Street25 March, 2016

    […] volume of their traffic. . Germany also introduced such a taxation complement though finished adult giving Google a giveaway looseness to their material, citing Google’s widespread marketplace position. Many publishers in Europe realize this, and […]

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  9. EU Commission Wants Google to Pay a Licensing Fee | nFlicker - Media Portal26 March, 2016

    […] a significant amount of their traffic. . Germany also introduced such a tax system but ended up giving Google a free licence to their material, citing Google’s dominant market position. Many publishers in Europe realise this, and they […]

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  10. […] In Germany, where 200 publishers demanded fees from Google, the company said that it would still link to those sites but would not include a snippet from the piece. Publishers soon worked out that this made people less likely to click on those links, so they withdrew their demands. […]

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  11. […] stands in stark contrast to Germany, where the majority of the major news sites felt they had to acquiesce to Google in order to keep the traffic coming from Google […]

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  12. Hello world! – Pirate Party UK1 March, 2017

    […] seen from previous attempts at implementing this tax in Spain and Germany that it is actually highly damaging to the news industry as a whole, with small publishers being forced to bear the brunt of the costs which result from […]

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  13. […] Spania ?i Germania s-a încercat introducerea unei taxe pe link, iar impactul a fost unul semnificativ […]

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