Tuesday, July 30, 2013

German Journalism and Google News

Thursday, the new "Leistungsschutzrecht", a law which was supposed to help the struggling news media, by making it illegal for news aggregators and search engines to quote snipplets from news articles. The idea behind it was to generate revenue through licensing fees for the publishers. Most media outlets engaged in a propaganda campaign honest reporting on their own behalf. (Heck, that made me so angry that I started this blog)

The effort which was led by Springer, the publisher of the Bild Zeitung, the biggest tabloid in Europe, ended in absolute and utter disaster this week. The service was changed into an opt-in scheme, and Google asked the publishers if they want to partake. According to Sueddeutsche, the ten biggest German news sites now all allow Google News to use snipplets. Of course, the unconditional surrender includes all Springer papers.Well, that is not entirely true, several publishers are claiming that they might opt-out in the future and seem to believe that this will lead to the following:

1. Opt-in
2. Opt-out
3. ??????
4. Profit

Interesting plan, but I am not fully convinced, yet. Perhaps they believe that if they build a collecting society on publishing rights, like the GEMA, which does the same for artists, Google will somehow agree to pay them. Since, GEMA is also in a fight with google over money, which has not let to anything other than many YouTube music videos not being accessible from Germany, this does not seem all that likely.

This law will still do significant damage to many services and thereby it will cement Google's monopoly. Rivva, a small, one person news aggregation project, for example, is having problems to get some publishers to opt-in. So, without doing anything wrong, its service is now by design worse than google's.

Also, the media seems somewhat surprised that after engaging in a shameful campaign on their own behalf, supported by easily disprovable "facts", they now are seen by the Germans as pretty corrupt. Well, more corrupt than before that is. My guess is that this just might have had something to do with getting in bed with the government and together with the coalition making up a fantasy universe where robots.txt does not exist, and google forces them to be listed. Some people might actually believe that so called "favors" were involved like "nicer" reporting on policy, which makes the media in general seem more corrupt.

On Thursday the Leistungsschutzrecht will become law. It has only downsides; nobody gained or will gain anything from it in Germany. Only Google can be quite happy that their monopoly was most likely strengthened. The German publishers who are not in a healthy state have done nothing more than damage their own reputation, and the German government has created regulation that clearly hinders competition and favors an American company. Good Job.

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