Google Launches Petition Against German “Link Tax”

Google Germany

Threatened with new copyright laws that would force search engines to pay for ‘snippets’ of content displayed on aggregators like Google News, the world’s biggest search engine has launched a campaign to prevent the laws from being enacted.

Google has stepped up its response to the so called Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger bill, or ‘ancillary copyright for press publishers’ proposed by Angele Merkel’s government, launching a new website to warn German internet users about the changes.

The website, Verteidige dein netz, or Defend your network, claims that the new controls, which are aimed at protecting intellectual property, will only serve to harm users by limiting their freedom and diminishing their internet experience.

Translated into English, the site claims:

“For you it would be so much more difficult in the Internet to find the information that you seek. Defend your network, a single intervention against this world, mixing it for yourself and share this page with your friends!”

Google’s protest site also carries a petition, inviting users to sign up and support its cause – those who sign up will then be kept informed of the bill’s progress as its considered by German lawmakers. In addition, the site urges users to contact their representatives in Germany’s parliament to voice their opposition to the bill.

Speaking to the Inquirer website, a spokesperson for Google said that the new laws, if passed, would not only hurt internet users, but could also harm the country as well:

“An ancillary copyright endangers one of the fundamental principles of the web, the possibility to share and search for information through links.”

“The law would let users not always find what they are searching for. It would be detrimental for jobs and growth in Germany as almost half of the German economy already depends on the Internet.”

The spokesperson added that Google’s information campaign was designed to educate people about the consequences of any law change, and said that he hoped that with enough opposition, Germany’s parliament would block the new bill.

The ancillary copyright bill set to be debated by Germany’s parliament is actually a scaled down version of a much harsher law that would have forced not just search engines, but also businesses that allow employees to search the internet pay for the privilege. That first draft of the law caused such an outrage that lawmakers quickly toned down their plans, but they still insist that the likes of Google should have to pay in order to protect German publishers that claim they are losing traffic due to Google News.

Germany isn’t the only country giving Google a hard time either. In France, the search engine giant went as far as threatening to de-index all stories from that country’s major media publishers in response to demands for payment to link to their content.

For its part, Google claims that media sites have the option of de-listing themselves from its search engine results at any time (as they did in Brazil), leaving observers to wonder what the true motives of these publishers are. Is it really about protecting their intellectual property, or are they just after a quick buck?