Germany’s controversial ancillary copyright legislation (Leistungsschutzgesetz) comes into effect on 1 August 2013. In reaction to the new rules, Google News has developed a “confirmation statement” with which online media operators can signify their agreement to their content being displayed in Google’s search index. But will this attempt to avoid the legal uncertainties surrounding the legislation succeed?
Germany’s ancillary copyright legislation
The aim of the new ancillary copyright law is to provide online news publishers with similar intellectual property protection to that which is already enjoyed by music producers, film producers and broadcasters.
The rules provide that press publications, or parts of them, can only be made publicly available with the express prior consent of the publishers. Also, commercial search engine operators or other similar services wishing to use snippets of online press articles in search results will be required to pay a fee to the publishers for doing so.
Press content in Google’s search index
In reaction to the ancillary copyright legislation, Google has developed a confirmation statement for press publishers.
German publishers, who wish for their news content to continue to be displayed by Google after 1st August, will need to submit the statement to the internet search engine.
According to Google’s blog, the statement represents a technical measure for publishers to signify their acceptance to their content being shown on Google services which is additional to those measures which already exist.
Content from online news media operators who do not submit the statement to Google before 1st August 2013, will no longer be listed in the search-engine’s search results.
In all other countries press content will remain available on the same basis as previously: content which is made freely available by publishers will be indexed in Google News.
§ 87f sub-paragraph 1 of the amended Copyright Act does permit “individual words or the shortest excerpts of text” to be reproduced free of any licence requirements or payment of any fee. It will therefore be permissible to use clean URLs or headlines, such as “Bayern beats Schalke”.
However, it remains unclear how many characters or words a text may contain before a fee becomes payable.
With its acceptance declaration, Google News is attempting to circumvent this uncertainty.