Google has launched a campaign calling for the German people to petition against proposed legislation that could allow German websites to charge search engines a fee for featuring their content in search results. This legislation has been changed from its first iteration that would also impose a fee on companies whose employees use search engines at work.
Germany’s backing of this controversial legislation is believed to be encouraged by powerful domestic media groups such as The Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers. The law would be an attempt to increase the profitability of German newspapers that have faced declining revenues over the last decade as the internet has become more and more popular as a free source of news.
The main argument put forward by media groups is that users of services such as Google News are able to read sections of articles in their previews which they believe will discourage users from clicking though to their site. Google firmly rejects this view and suggests that services such as Google News make their content more accessible and therefore promote user click throughs. Google has also put forward the valid suggestion that if sites are unhappy with the way Google handles their content, it is simple for them to de-index themselves and remove their content from all Google search results. Google also emphasised that Google News does not feature adverts and therefore they don’t profit from user searches.
In addition to these objections, Google has also launched a campaign entitled “Defend Your Net”. This features a video which describes the legislation and the way in which it will affect German internet users, should it be made law. Concerned German citizens are then called upon to complete an online petition in an attempt to halt the changes.
This is not the first disagreement between Google and Germany. Last year, Google decided to abandon its efforts to photographically map Germany’s cities for its ‘Street View’ project. Despite the German State Supreme Court ruling the act as legal, Google faced strong opposition from residents and businesses concerned about their privacy rights.