Artem Loginov made comments on 'Google tax' law passed by German parliament for TASS-Telecom

26 March 2013

The German parliament passed 'Google tax' law which ensures that owners of newspapers and magazines receive a license fee paid by search engines and news aggregators using their texts.

On Friday the German Bundesrat / upper chamber of parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany / passed the new law related to protection of Intellectual Property of German publishing houses, newspapers and magazines. The law obliges search engines and news aggregators to pay a license fee to owners of newspapers and magazines for distributing their texts. Nevertheless, the law in its present form allows these systems to use “single words and short text fragments” without paying license fee, however it does not specify the admissible size of such fragments. In Germany the act is also known as “Lex Google”/ “Google Law”/ as it is supposed that the law will affect the interests of this news aggregator.

Kay Oberbeck, Head of Communications & Public Affairs, Google DACH, has sharply criticized the decision taken by Bundesrat. “We still stick to the opinion that the best way / to solve the issue / is to conclude economic partnership agreements, instead of passing new laws,” he said.

Germany is not the only European country where Google faced claims by journalists related to their texts being displayed in the search delivery. In February it was reported that Google will invest 60 million euros to set up a special fund in France to compensate publishers for infringement of copyright. The agreement was signed by President François Hollande and Eric Emerson Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of the American company. In France it was a case of compensations only to “paper” press, not of acceptable usage of text fragments, as now in Germany.

“It is a willful act aiming to “expulse” the Google search engine from Germany, or lobbying of separate German news resources, or German officials just fail to understand the basics of search engines,” believes Irina Levova, Director for Strategic Studies at RAEK. “The German publishers want both to retain the benefits of search engines, and to raise money for what they get from the traffic,” said Karen Kazaryan, the editor of “Internet v Tsifrakh” magazine. “This law is clearly targeting Google, a company which is good at making money, unlike the old media.”

The law prohibits not only infringement of copyright, but also any actions resulting in such infringement, reminded Igor Slabykh, Head of the Anti-Piracy Department for Russia and the CIS, Adobe Systems Inc. “Still, the issue of whether search engines are responsible for generation of links to resources that violate the law of copyright, is now a controversial one,” he said. When it comes to mass media, they speak about aggregators displaying links to pirated works, when searching engines thereby promote replication of pirated works.

Artem Loginov of the law office S&K Vertical, member of the Association of Lawyers of Russia, reminded that publishing houses as copyright owners have the right to protect their intellectual property. “If the German search services display texts in their entirely, then the applicable websites (copyright owners) will definitely lose their audience, and that audience loss will directly or indirectly result in material losses,” believes the lawyer.

Representatives of Yandex which competes with Google for Russian search market share refused to make comments on situation with the controversial German law, referring to the lack of specific information.

The German case brought up a question of whether similar steps can be taken in other countries, including Russia. All the experts interviewed by TASS-Telecom replied in the negative: in their opinion, one should not expect for adoption of the Russian equivalent of “Google Law”.

Marina Botchkareva


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