back to article Google parks panzers on Germany's lawn over 'link tax' plan

Google is attacking Germany's politicos in an effort to prevent the country's Parliament from passing a copyright law in the country that would force search engines to pay publishers for running links to newspaper stories. The world's largest ad broker is lobbying hard against the so-called ancillary copyright law by moaning …


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  1. M Gale

    So, uhm, Google (and presumably Yahoo, Bing et al) would have to pay the publisher.. to drive traffic toward the publisher?

    Something wrong here.

    1. James Micallef Silver badge

      not really

      AFAIK many people just scan the headlines / first few lines from Google's news search and rarely go to the news site itself unless they're interested in a particular article. So in the 'scanning' phase users are on Google real estate. Not sure of the exact mechanisms but I think it's fair to say that Google is making a pretty penny out of other people's news content.

      Saying that finding info / news will be more difficult if this law is passed is BS on Google's side. It's not like they're going to stop aggregating news if for every $1 in ads they show on their aggregator site they have to pay 50c proportionally split between all the sites they link to.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge

        Re: not really

        PS - not saying the German law is necessarily right here, just disagree with likely outcomes that some commentors posted.

        If German users want news online in German, and Google stops linking German sites, users will just go to the website of their local/national paper/TV station. They most certainly will NOT go to Google news and read their international news in another lanhuage, not to mention that international sites will not have detailed local (German) news. It's likely the news sites will lose some incidental traffic if Google unlinks from them, but really, German news readers will still want to see the news online, so overall German news sites will not have that much less traffic. If anything, the better sites will increase their traffic at the expense of the worse ones.

        Regarding the actual merits of the case, fundamentally it's true that Google is making a lot of money from other people's content. Google news is NOT just a series of links, it includes excerpts and photos, and surely there is some sort of editorial ranking of what shows up on their front page. In content and layout it's little different from, say, the BBC news front page. Except that BBC pay for their own news and Google use other people's stuff for free. If google were simply providing headlines + links I might have a little more sympathy, but on this one I'm more inclined to side with the proposed law.

      2. Sam Liddicott

        Re: not really

        How do you think google are making a "pretty penny" out of other peoples news content?

        1. Ragarath

          Re: not really @ Sam Liddicott

          How else do Google make money in most of their other practices? Advertising, it is all about the advertising. If people put up their headlines they are in a sense using their copy to enable them to show some adverts that might be clicked on.

          1. Sam Liddicott

            @Ragarath: Re: not really @ Sam Liddicott

            Ragarath: Have you seen any advertising on I checked before posting and I couldn't see any

            1. Ragarath

              Re: @Sam Liddicott @Ragarath: not really @ Sam Liddicott

              Sam: thanks for pointing that out but in the article it does not mention just I was basing my comments on how I search for news. Using the organic search.

              But then on they are still making money, not in adverts, but from your data set. Unless of course you just skim and do not click.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: not really

          Showing loads of adverts in search results, which is their main revenue stream. Android and all the other crap they give away for next to nothing isn't making them their money.

      3. ArmanX

        Re: not really

        Is there a way to force Google to link to your website - especially after you just told them they have to pay you for the privilege? Blogs are just as good as big news sites at breaking news; if Google has to pay for links, they will seriously devalue costly links in favor of free.

        It's so brain-dead, I'm assuming this is a thinly-veiled attempt to close online news sites by driving away Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc...

      4. Arclight

        Re: not really

        "AFAIK many people just scan the headlines / first few lines from Google's news search"

        That makes no sense. If you search for a story its because you've already heard about it and want to find out more about it. Why would you search for it, and then just read the headline?

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Yes really

          A newspaper can invade a person's privacy and make money telling people about things they haven't done some of which may be fiction and all of it rather demeaning for all concerned....

          And they want to keep it secret?

          Only in Soviet Deutchland...

        2. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: not really

          My bad - what I meant is "AFAIK many people just scan the headlines / first few lines from Google's news page"

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: not really

        A lot of news sites, magazines, newspapers etc are re-hashes of someone eleses story but with pretty much the full content. Have a look at the register's stories, most of them will have been extracted from sources on the net.

        If a story on Google news is interesting then people will click on it and link through to the site. I can't believe many people get their actual news fill from looking at the headlines. If so then maybe the stands outside the newsagents giving the headlines should be banned?

        It is very easy for any website to delist themselves from Google's searching and news pages. Takes less than a few minutes and lasts as long as you want. Just put a simple robots.txt file on the site and it's all done - something that has been around since near the dawn of the world wide web.

        They tried stopping Google linking to new in Belgium, Google lost the case and stopped linking to them, they then asked to be returned as their traffic had plummeted. I would therefore recommend that if a publisher feels that their viewership will go up without Google (and others) then put a robots.txt file on and see if it does. I'd bet a pack of pringles it doesn't!

      6. Thorne

        Re: not really

        "AFAIK many people just scan the headlines / first few lines from Google's news search and rarely go to the news site itself unless they're interested in a particular article"

        So what your saying is Google should pay the papers because I don't find their articles interesting?

    2. toadwarrior

      I doubt they have problems or want money for standard links. Everyone's complaints ( so I assume it's the same in Germany ) is google news which is more than links so it can lead to people who just skim and never visit the site. They have a valid complaint that google uses their content to generate money for themselves while keeping people away from the news site.

      As far as people saying google should just ban them from their search results, that will only help the competition who can say they offer the whole web and don't resort to childish censorship.

  2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Gut, Helmut!

    "Geld spricht, Stier Scheiße Wanderungen"

    This destroyed my keyboard. A translation of "Money talks, Bullshit Expeditions?"

    Anyway, looks the Germans took are now embarking on the "The Search For More Holy Tax Money".

    How's the industry going, guys?

    1. Alan Esworthy

      Re: Gut, Helmut!

      Idiomatic translation: "Money talks, bullshit walks."

  3. John Sanders

    If I was Google

    I would comply with the law, removing all links to any German media site, showing a page that explains the issue, and then offer a link that diverts all the searches to UK/France/Spain/Italy, etc newspapers

    The German businessmen who came with this stupid idea in the first place would be the first to cry for Google to restore the linking.

    1. Vin King
      Thumb Up

      Re: If I was Google

      I love this type of overblown reaction. Pull a product out of an entire country just to prove a minor point. Sorry, peoples, you have spoken, and you have said you don't want our service. The only problem with this is that no company has the cajones to take a small hit on their bottom line to stand up for themselves. They whimper and pander to the crap they get. Like when Fallout 3 got OMG BANNED in the AU for having morphine. Bowed and changed it to Med X for the entire world, rather than just tell the AU people, "Welp, you've spoken, and you don't want to play this game because your rating system doesn't allow for the fact that adults might want to play games, so you've censored our product. Sounds good to me."

      If only companies WOULD do this type of thing. We'd see more and more issues get properly dealt with in the political machine, because people WOULD be angry that some idiot law has actually impacted their ability to do something they want.

  4. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    This would be equivalent to being required to pay a tax for pointing at a newspaper and saying "there's a story in there about the big event that happened yesterday".

    1. s0beit

      Don't give them any ideas...

  5. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Does the media company in question own a search engine?

    Because the only logical outcome is that eventually Google will be forced to just delist all German domains from certain sections of its site, which begs the question of what people will move onto after the initial screaming and outrage, if there isn't an immediate backstep among the law courts.

    The next-biggest search engine, perhaps? Or one owned by the news outlets? Or one that's negotiated to kill off a rival?

    There is no logical outcome to the problem that benefits the person suing otherwise. You'll either lose Google-views and end up wondering why people don't want to pay you in order to link to the page where they could read a story for free / pay for the full story, or you'll end up basically turning all of the search engine's "news" pages into a paid-advert page devoid of independence, subject to massive tax issues, and linking to the lowest-bidder in preference to you.

    I can only think that the people suing think that Google will swallow throwing a few million their way for the "privilege" of sending them some traffic which is the only thing that keeps them propped up and relevant in the modern age, forever, and not be bitter about it, which seems incredibly unlikely. Much more likely is they just say "If you don't want us to link to you, click here to remove your entire domain from our search engine" (which is the argument already in court - if you don't want googlebot indexing you, disable it from robots.txt and you'll also lose all your random Google traffic along with it).

    It's just far too dangerous a road to rule that Google (and everyone else, don't forget) need to pay or remove the listings. I'd much rather just never take the risk of being sued by Company X by never, ever citing, snippeting, or linking to any articles even remotely associated with them ever again.

  6. disgruntled yank

    clarification for foreigners and the young

    "Money talks, bullshit walks" was popularized by a recording of Congressman Michael Myers of Pennsylvania, made by the FBI agents who were carrying out a bribery sting as part of the "Abscam" investigation over 30 years ago.

    1. Ptahtenen

      Re: clarification for foreigners and the young

      I appreciate it was supposed to be a joke, though it did make me cringe a little.

      For starters "Wanderungen" is a plural noun, and means walks of the kind one might take in spring to enjoy the countryside. "wandert" would be the equivalent conjugated verb, but I'm assuming that this bullshit isn't going for walks in the countryside.

      There are other problems, but that was the one that was painful.

    2. Peter Simpson 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: clarification for foreigners and the young

      I believe the Honorable Gentleman was attempting to cram a large number of currency notes into his suitcoat at the time he made that statement.

    3. Epobirs

      Re: clarification for foreigners and the young

      It was part of the culture long before then. It goes with the 70s t-shirt that reads, "If you cannot dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with bullshit."

      1. Turtle

        Re: clarification for foreigners and the young

        " It goes with the 70s t-shirt that reads, 'If you cannot dazzle them with diamonds, baffle them with bullshit.'"

        That's a good one! I've never heard that one before, and I remember the 70's much better than I'd like.

  7. MrXavia

    How dumb are media companies?

    How do they think we FIND their content, and once we are there can be enticed into a subscription, maybe a nice little app for our phones to update us regularly.. our first port of call is a search engine, for me its Google, for others its Bing, for those of us old enough to remember, it could be Yahoo... and for the real classic there is Altavista (yes it STILL exists)

    But as soon as you want to charge for the privalidge of linking, then they won't link, we wont visit..

    I know I use Google sometimes to find alternate views on a story, and visit many sites, and often end browsing more... unfortunately the adverts are 99% of the time irrelevant (yes I brought a widget a few days ago.. but I don't need another, try showing me something relevant to the content and I might click the link!)

    Mad... just Mad...

  8. Morely the IT Guy

    Here's an example of massive stupidity

    German newspapers don't want people to come to their Web sites, obviously; else why pressure Google into de-linking?

    I following a Google link this morning to the Financial Times Web site. Under normal circumstances, I would *NEVER* visit that site (and having seen it, I won't again, but that's a different kettle of bollocks). Without the Google link to (what should have been) an interesting story, FT would stay off my radar.

    So, I agree with John Sanders, but I would go one step further: Block all links to any .de domain and see if that satisfies the morons who brought the suit.

    1. Turtle

      Re: Here's an example of massive stupidity

      "Block all links to any .de domain and see if that satisfies the morons who brought the suit."

      Good idea, because it will give an opening to a competitor to found an all-German search engine and Google will lose all revenue from Germany. And of course, it might well cause the EU to (finally) implement some strict rules regarding Google's business practices in light of it extremely dominant position as a search-engines.

      Smart. Very smart.

  9. Kevin Johnston

    I guess it must just be me then

    I have a couple of media sites which I go directly to so that I get the slant I like on my news. Tried a different one and their version of shrill ranting just left me flat.

    The last thing I want is someone assuming they know better than me throwing their preferred stories/slant in my face every time I go onto the web, That is what El Reg is for.......

    I understand a post like this should be concluded....Flame On.....

  10. Christoph

    What do they need a law for?

    If they don't want Google to index their site, it is trivial to add a robots.txt entry telling googlebot not to index the site.

    If they do want Google to index their site, why the hell should they then expect Google to pay to do so?

    In either case there is no need to make laws about it. Especially as web technology moves far faster than laws.

    1. frank ly

      Re: What do they need a law for?

      Assuming that Google's webcrawlers honour the request in robots.txt (I've no idea if they do.)

      Even if they don't, then any webserver can be easily rigged to check the IP source of a data request and deliver different data depending on the source of the request: e.g. 'We don't let you suck at out teat' (or whatever) when known Google IPs come a'sucking.

      If the newspapers want to stop Google, or anybody else, reading their content then they can. So why don't they?

      1. Oninoshiko

        Re: What do they need a law for?

        yes, google honors robots.txt.

        it's mostly less reputable crawlers which are (usually) spamming that don't

    2. Werner McGoole

      Re: What do they need a law for?

      I think the idea of the law is to leech off Google to get some of their money. I could have got that wrong, but somehow I suspect not if human nature is the same in Germany as elsewhere.

      1. DavCrav

        Re: What do they need a law for?

        "I think the idea of the law is to leech off Google to get some of their money."

        Maybe to replace some of the tax Google doesn't pay?

  11. Alan Esworthy
    Thumb Down

    Anonymous "Team Register" coward?

    Great final paragraph:

    Last week, it lobbied against meetings organised by the International Telecommunications Union. The Choc Factory claimed that some of the proposals to overhaul the 1988 communications treaty could be bad news for free speech. In reality, it could be more of an issue for Google's bottom line seeing as it might be forced to pay for more stuff.

    Google's bottom line notwithstanding, the UN's intended authoritarian-friendly takeover of the 'net would be catastrophic for reasons well laid out by many non-Googlers, including this Wall Street Journal article, which memorably observes

    Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla.

    I think I understand (but hardly approve of) no one at The Register wanting to claim authorship of that last para.

    p.s. Sure would be nice if <blockquote> worked here.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Question: Who would this apply to?

    Is it the location of the reader that determines whether Google would have to pay the German "link tax", or the location of the server, or what?

    I would guess that Germany would not be allowed to discriminate against foreign publishers, so it would be the stuff that Google serves to readers in Germany that is affected, though perhaps publishers would have to register, so publishers whose readers are mostly outside Germany wouldn't bother registering. Or perhaps some collection agency is hoping to grab all the money on behalf of publishers who don't get round to registering ... I bet that's the real hidden agenda!

  13. Stumpy Pepys

    Gott hilf uns!

    Blimey, if you're going to use foreign phrases, ask someone who has some grasp of the language, rather than sticking it in Google Translate.

  14. Radbruch1929

    Slightly confusing

    "Google is attacking Germany's politicos in an effort to prevent the country's Parliament from passing a copyright law in the country that would force search engines to pay publishers for running links to newspaper stories."

    This is Google's position on the issue. The draft law cites precedence that linking to published content is not a copyright infringement and elaborates that the law does not change that position.

    The actual text of the proposed law reserves the offer to the public to access content for the publisher, i.e. it prohibits republication of a work and parts thereof. Add to this that quoting a piece is not seen as a use of a work under copyright so linking and quoting (but not republishing) seem to be ok.

    Note that nobody knows yet where the draft law is going to go in the final version.

  15. Epobirs


    Is there any better way for the old guard newspapers to accelerate their decline than to discourage linking to their online edition?

    These people have their wages paid by advertising, just like any Google employee. But they're oblivious to how things have changed. People no longer reflexively buy a newspaper or go to a newspaper's site. They go to sites of people who they find interesting and follow the links offered there. Discouraging that is suicidal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Buh-bye

      Google indexes their content and can show it without people visiting their site. Google shows advertising and the sites in question also have advertising. But by people not visiting the original site Google get all the dough and the people writing the content don't get a penny.

      This is like a warez site selling pirated music.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Buh-bye

        "Google shows advertising"

        Do they? Where? I've never seen any advertising when I've used Google.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Buh-bye

          I upvoted you, but I do, occasionally, see advertising. When I do, I update adblock+.

  16. Arachnoid

    On the theme of registration perhaps Google could make the only viewable content from such papers that register with Google and make content available under a royalty free license.Ergo excluding those who do not want to provide the service for free.

  17. dewee
    Thumb Down


    why would google care about users privacy ? "they don't have anything to hide"

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lobby lobby lobby, can't have poor defenceless penniless Google paying taxes can we, boohoo.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Would I be correct in assuming that if this goes through, Germans will be getting their on line news via Austrian newspapers?

    1. Thorne

      Re: Austrian

      No. They'll have to invade Poland again to find out

  20. Mikel

    So drop the newspapers

    Agree with the others here. If the law passes, de-index the newspapers. If you have to pay to link to it, it ain't on the Internet.

  21. Sirius Lee

    Slight bias in this article?

    So Google is being a self-promoter by opposing this proposal in Germany but there's no comment on the gain of the beneficiaries of this proposal? So German newspapers have not lobbied for this proposal then?

    Presumably commentary in German newspapers is even handed with articles reviewing the benefits to readers and themselves honestly. Mmmm. Does somebody at "Team Register" work for a German newspaper?

  22. Sel

    Google Advertise the News Provider Front and Centre

    Dear fossil relic type news people, sorry yes the world has indeed moved on. Just as it did when the printing press was invented. Either get behind it or get run over. Google may be an advertiser but they are putting your advert front and centre for free. The money they make out of your material is not the same money you could have made this is not a zero sum game. If you want to follow the old publishing model then you are free to do so. Stop publishing things on the web. If you want to publish on the web and control people linking to it then you have the same mentality and manners as a thug walking down the street staring down anyone looking at them.

    De-linking is blackmail! Or at least that's what the French lobbyists said when Google said they would de-link in the face of a likely French pay per link IIRC. So cake and eat it eh... Are you five?

    The Times found out that they wanted to opt back in to Google after they put their paywall up, blocked Google linking and lost 30-40% of their visitors... Thus proving that you don't need legal help to stop Google doing this you need technical help (if you really actually want to stop them) and that blocking Google is also very stupid thing to do if you like visitors.

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