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March 6, 2013

German lower house passes ‘Google tax’ law

By William Turvill

The lower house of German parliament last week approved legislation giving publishers the right to charge search engines such as Google for reproducing content.

But a late amendment made to the law, known as the 'Google tax', means online aggregators would be allowed to use “individual words or the smallest excerpts of text” for free.

This means that only companies reproducing full texts for commercial purposes would need to pay publishers.

According to The New York Times, the “weakened” bill passed the Bundestag (lower house) with 293 votes to 243. It now needs to be passed in the upper house, the Bundesrat.

The European Publishers Council praised the decision, saying it would “pave the way for commercial negotiations between the parties on the price for the commercial use of publishers’ content”.

The EPC, which represents organisations including News International, Trinity Mirror, DMGT, Financial Times and Telegraph Media Group, said that if the law, requiring aggregating companies to get licences for using the content, is passed it would help “establish a market for aggregator content”.

Chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemao, said: “The EPC welcomes this important vote in the German Bundestag today which recognises clearly in copyright law both the value and the cost of investment in professional journalistic content."

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Earlier this year the EPC criticised the French media for striking up a €60m (£51.8m) deal with Google to help newspapers develop their online presence.

French president Francois Hollande made the “historic agreement” with Google after two months of negotiations.

It saw Google create the €60m Digital Publishing Innovation Fund to help support newspapers online. Google also agreed to assist publishers with advertising technology.

But the EPC said the agreement did not confront online copyright issues and backed countries such as Germany that were not willing to make similar concessions.

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