Is the Pending German Copyright Bill Good or Bad for the Web?

A new copyright bill pending approval by the German Parliament would require search engines and other commercial actors to pay a license for using headlines or short snippets from their articles. The publishers essentially want a piece of the revenue generated by the inclusion of their news items in search results. The publishers argue that German copyright laws are insufficient and don’t allow them to use the copyright laws in a systematic manner against the widespread re-use of that information.

Adopting such rules may be bad for users and the web. If snippets and headlines require license fees, the ability to locate information may be curtailed as search engines could (and likely will) simply remove the publishers from their index – an approach Google has already taken in Belgium. If this happens, locating the news becomes more difficult. Imposition of license fees in this context may also reduce competition by making it more difficult for new entrants who cannot pay such fees, and unintentionally favoring well-funded players who can pay.

We believe that the Web brings the world together through the flow of information, ideas and creativity. Search engines, in their purest form, foster this information flow allowing people to connect with information and news that may be worlds away from them. Impediments to this information flow, be they commercial, political or even legal, restrict the real benefits the Web has to offer.

The Bill is on its way to Parliament on November 29th, 2012. For more information about the Bill go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancillary_copyright .