Google is pressuring Germany’s antitrust regulators to stay out of a copyright law dispute between the Internet search giant and German publishing firms. In a letter to the Germany’s antitrust authorities, the Federal Cartel Office, Google has asked the agency to formally declare that it will not become involved in the fight.
The dispute involves an attempt by several German publishers to force Google and other search engines to pay for displaying content taken from their news sites. The publishers cite copyright law, which permits licensing fees for using content from publications. The law allows, however, for the use of short segments of text free of charge.
The publishers involved include Axel Springer, Burda, Funke, Madsack and M. DuMont Schauberg. They are members of VG Media, a copyright collection group that is pressuring Google for payment. The U.S. company is by far the dominant player in Germany’s Internet search market.
In reaction to the publishers’ demands, Google shortened the preview it displays for their news sites. And starting this Thursday, only the titles will be shown in Google search results for such publications as bild.de or waz.de.
Content from other publishers – such as for the news publications spiegel.de, faz.net, zeit.de or sueddeutsche.de – will continue to appear with thumbnails and snippets. Google search results for the news site focus.de also will not be affected, even though the Burda group owns a majority of Tomorrow Focus. In contrast to other Burda news sites such as bunde.de, the rights for Tomorrow Focus publications were not turned over to VG Media.
Google confirmed its latest appeal to the antitrust regulators, which was first reported in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily.
“The federal antitrust office has repeatedly declared in public that it does not consider an antitrust action against Google to be necessary,” said a Google spokesperson. “VG Media, however, continues to give the opposite impression. That’s why we have asked for a formal decision.”
In its letter, Google refers to German law against restraints on competition, which also specifies when there is “no reason (for the antitrust office) to become involved.”
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