‘Google Tax’ Is Double-Edged Sword for Publishers

Germany’s top publisher bows to Google in news licensing row (Re/Code, 5 Nov 2014) – Germany’s biggest news publisher, Axel Springer, has scrapped a bid to block Google from running snippets of articles from its newspapers, saying that the experiment had caused traffic to its sites to plunge. Springer said a two-week-old experiment to restrict access by Google to its news headlines had caused Web traffic to its publications to plunge, leading it to row back and let Google once again showcase Springer news stories in its search results. Chief Executive Mathias Doepfner said on Wednesday that his company would have “shot ourselves out of the market” if it had continued with its demands for the U.S. firm to pay licensing fees. Springer, which publishes Europe’s top-selling daily newspaper, Bild, said Google’s grip over online audiences was too great to resist, a double-edged compliment meant to ram home the publisher’s criticism of what it calls Google’s monopoly powers. Publishers in countries from Germany and France to Spain have pushed to pass new national copyright laws that force Google and other web aggregators to pay licensing fees – dubbed the Google Tax – when it publishes snippets of their news articles. Under German legislation that came into effect last year, publishers can prohibit search engines and similar services from using their news articles beyond headlines. Last week, Spain’s upper house passed a similar law giving publishers an “inalienable” right to levy such licensing fees on Google.


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