German publishers join collecting society to collect money from Google

The publishers are demanding compensation based on a new but controversial online copyright law

Twelve German online news publishers have taken a 50 percent stake in collecting society VG Media, with the aim of receiving compensation from search engines that republish parts of news articles.

Joining collecting society VG Media is the publishers' first step toward collecting compensation from search engines such as Google and Bing, said VG Media spokesman Bernd Delventhal Tuesday. The publishers want a part of the advertising revenue search engines and aggregators generate by republishing parts of journalistic content.

The publishers aim to be compensated in much the same way as music-collecting society's receive compensation for the artists they represent, he added.

A German online copyright law that came into effect last Aug. 1 gives publishers the exclusive right to the commercial use of their content. The law is a toned-down version of a controversial copyright bill that aimed to give publishers the right to charge search engines as well as news aggregators for republishing short text snippets like the ones used by Google News.

The toned-down version of the law gives publishers the exclusive right to commercialize their products or parts thereof, except in the case of single words or small text snippets. The exemption was added in order to allow search engines and aggregators to continue to show parts of news articles without infringing on copyright. Publishers, however, contend that the law still allows them to demand compensation.

Joining a collecting society enables publishers to receive compensation, said Delventhal. Now that they own half of VG Media, the publishers are scheduled to form an advisory committee on March 13 that will decide on the best way to collect money from search engines, he said, adding that the compensation could, for instance, be based on page views.

But the effort to collect compensation could lead to lawsuits, he added.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but it has said before that it would not pay for republishing snippets of content.

In anticipation of the law, Google introduced a Google News opt-in for German publishers. Only publishers that gave their consent remained in Google News' index after Aug. 1.3

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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