A German rule which gives publishers the right to demand a license fee from Google for using news snippets should be halted as it has not been notified to the European Commission, an advisor to Europe’s top court said on Thursday.
The non-binding recommendation from Advocate General Gerard Hogan followed a request for guidance from a Berlin court after VG Media sued the world’s most popular internet search engine for using text excerpts, images and videos produced by its members without paying them.
VG Media is a consortium of around 200 publishers. The publishers’ case centres on an ancillary copyright law, or “Leistungsschutzrecht”, in force since August 2013.
Over the past decade, the media industry has often accused Google of making money at its expense by making its content freely available via Google News, YouTube and other services to drive audiences to view ads on Google sites instead.
Google says that the publishers already profit from advertising revenue generated through its sites.
The European Union is now considering copyright rules on this issue, triggering fierce lobbying from the creative industries on one hand and the tech industry on the other.
“The Court should rule that the new German rules prohibiting search engines from providing excerpts of press products without prior authorisation by the publisher must not be applied,” Advocate General Hogan said.
“Those rules should have been notified to the Commission as they constitute a technical regulation specifically aimed at a particular information society service, namely, the provision of press products through the use of internet search engines.”
The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) follows advisors’ recommendations in the majority of cases. Judges will rule in the coming months.
Germany’s biggest newspaper publisher Axel Springer in 2014 blocked Google from running snippets of articles from its newspapers, but scrapped the move after the two-week-old experiment caused traffic to its sites to plunge.