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Google News opt-in is not good enough, German publishers say

Publishers want a share of Google's revenue, they said

German publishers will disappear from Google News on Aug. 1 unless they opt in to the service as Google seeks to comply with a new German law. But the publishers said on Monday that this is not good enough, they want a share in Google's revenue.

The law will come into effect on Aug. 1 and gives publishers the exclusive right to commercialize their products or parts thereof, except in the case of single words or very small text snippets.The length of the text snippets however, is not defined in the law, creating a grey area for news aggregators such as Google that republish part of the texts.

"In light of this development, and given the uncertainty of the new law, we have developed the Google News Confirmed Consent Tool as a confirmation system that German publishers will need to use if they would like to have or continue to have their content included in Google News," Google spokesman Ralf Bremer said via email on Monday. The tool was introduced on Friday.

That means that only German publishers that give their consent will remain in the Google News index after Aug. 1, Bremer said.

"The new confirmed consent tool is designed for German publishers. This means: If a German publisher does not accept the 'confirm consent' his content will not be shown any longer in any edition of Google News, e.g. also Swiss or Austrian from August 1st on," Bremer said in a second email, responding to additional questions.

The Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) and the Federation of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ) welcomed the opt-in mechanism, said Peter Klotzki, spokesman for the VDZ. "Google threatened to unlist all the publishers and never get a chance to opt-in again," he said, adding that in this way publishers get a choice just as intended by the law.

"We reject the allegation of Mr. Klotzki," Bremer said in the second email after being asked about Klotzki's comments. Google has never threatened to unlist all the publishers giving them no chance to opt-in again, he said. "This is simply not true," he said.

Google however argues that the opt-in mechanism is just an addition to other tools publishers can use to control their presence on Google News. "Publishers have always been free to decide whether and how their articles should be displayed in Google News. The new tool provides them with an additional option to do so," Bremer said.

If publishers in Germany or elsewhere do not want to be included they can use technical option like robots.txt and meta tags to prevent indexing by Google, the company said in a the blog post in which the consent tool was announced.

But the publishers assume the German law goes further, Klotzki said. The VDZ and the BDZV want a share of the revenue Google makes by republishing their content, and this opt-in tool doesn't let publishers share in the revenue, he said.

The law was drafted because the publishers demanded compensation for claimed revenue loss.

Google isn't planning a revenue sharing model though. "Google News is a free service, unbiased by commercial relationships. We want to keep it that way," Bremer said.

"Globally speaking Google drives a huge amount of traffic to publishers for free -- 6+ billion visits per month. This provides real economic value also for German publishers," he said.

While the publishers disagree, they first want to see what the result of the implementation of the opt-in will be when the law enters into force, Klotzki said, adding that it is too early for legal action against Google.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com


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