• Intellectual Property Wars: Google vs. Germany (www.legallanguage.com)

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Intellectual Property Wars: Google vs. Germany (www.legallanguage.com)

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The German parliament is considering an intellectual property bill that would greatly impact Google. This intellectual property bill, known colloquially as the “Google Tax,” would require search engines (such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!) to pay each time they link to many types of media content. Affected content would include newspaper articles and photographs.

The German Federal Cabinet proposed the bill to prevent the unauthorized commercial use of press material online. Critics argue that these legislative changes would profoundly affect how search engines operate.

Legislators worldwide are grappling with an ever-changing media landscape. Many will be closely watching Germany’s attempts to reform intellectual property laws.

Intellectual Property Reform: Google’s Response
Google has launched an aggressive public relations campaign decrying the changes. The company recently released a video titled entitled “Defend Your Net.” The one-minute video gives examples of the kinds of searches which would presumably be affected by the proposed legislation.

Google identifies potentially serious effects. These threats include damage to the German economy, massive legal uncertainty, threats to the diversity of information and setbacks to media innovation.

According to Google’s Germany manager, Stefan Tweraser, “An [intellectual] property right means less information for citizens and higher costs for companies.” He also noted that while the majority of people in Germany have not heard of the law, it would affect almost every internet-user in the country.

“Searching and finding, a basic function of the internet, would be impaired,” stated Tweraser.

Google has produced written information and an online petition for users to sign. They have also planned newspaper and magazine advertisements.

The Intellectual Property Debate in Germany
Google argues that this intellectual property bill will unduly impede search engine quality. However, many publishers have spoken in support of the reforms. The German Journalists Association (DJV) implored members of the German Parliament to adopt this new approach to intellectual property rights.

Supporters of the intellectual property bill include media heavyweights like Axel Springer and Bertelsmann. These parties assert their desire to retain copyright over their content, and believe that the rights of media publishers are being infringed upon when the content is accessed for free.

Media groups are concerned that a “Google News” user is able to simply skim summaries without clicking through to the original content source. They argue that this can potentially have significant effects on a news outlet’s readership (and corresponding ad revenues).

However, Google argues that publishers are able to opt out of Google’s search results. They also point out that they direct a lot of traffic to German news sites — specifically, as much as 45 percent of traffic to one German news website is directed from Google.de, Google’s local German page.

The Future of Intellectual Property Laws
The proposed intellectual property reform in Germany is still in its early stages, so keep an eye out for updates on its progress. The notion of more stringent intellectual property rights does seem to be gaining traction within the EU — France is also compelling Google to compensate media websites.

All parties agree that the laws governing intellectual property need to be responsive to constant technological innovation. This is especially complex when dealing with multinationals that operate across national and linguistic boundaries. The question for legislators: How best to achieve a more modern approach to intellectual property?

Fri Dec 07 15:19:57 CET 2012




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