News aggregation as we know it, and possibly even search as we know it, may be in danger – at least in Germany.
German lawmakers are reportedly kicking around new legislation, which if turned into law, would require a news aggregation site (like Google News) to pay royalties to content publishers.
The snippets would be copyright-protected for one year, although individuals will be allowed to use the material for private use without having to pay royalties.
Essentially, news aggregation services would not be able to provide snippets of content, the way they do now, when pointing users to said content. It’s unclear whether we’re only talking about the actual snippets, or if that includes the titles as well. According to the report, aggregators may be forced to pay license fees, but if if the titles (which are essentially links), are not included, an aggregator like Google News could simply display the titles/links and no snippets, without having to pay, which would be more practical for the aggregator from a business standpoint, though it would hurt the user experience to some extent.
If the law is proposing charging for even use of the titles, they’re essentially proposing charging for linking. There’s no way that could be good for the web. The web only works because of links. That’s why it’s a web. It’s not a good precedent to be set.
If publishers start charging for links, they’re going to get a lot less of them, and ultimately that’s going to hurt the publishers’ traffic anyway. Seems like a lose/lose situation to me.
PaidContent does a good job of providing something of a timeline for similar proposals and court cases in Europe, including a law in the UK, which requires some aggregators to pay fees for summaries of online articles.
We’ll be taking a more in depth look at this issue and its broader implications in an upcoming article.