Google Nabs a Win in EU Fight Over News Snippets

The Google logo is seen at the Google headquarters in Brussels. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

(CN) – Siding with its magistrate, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that a German law subjecting Google and other search engines to demands for licensing fees for publishing excerpts from news articles needs to be cleared by European regulators – and can be disregarded until that happens.

Google has been accused by publishers of unfairly profiting on their content by making pieces of it free via Google News and YouTube. The search engine giant countered that the publishers are making money from ad revenue on its sites.

Germany enacted a copyright law in 2013 barring internet search engine operators from providing excerpts of text, photo and video content created by press publishers without permission.

VG Media, a collective of about 200 German publishers, sued Google in Berlin regional court for publishing excerpts from its press and media content without paying a license fee.

After the Berlin court asked the EU high court for guidance, Advocate General Gerard Hogan issued an advisory opinion that the German law amounts to a technical regulation under an EU directive from 1998 and therefore should have been submitted to the European Commission for review.

On Thursday, the high court agreed.

“Insofar as a rule, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, is specifically aimed at information society services, the draft technical regulation must be subject to prior notification to the commission,” the Luxembourg-based high court wrote in a 6-page preliminary ruling. “Failing that, according to settled case-law, the inapplicability of a technical regulation that has not been notified in accordance with that provision may be relied upon in proceedings between individuals.”

The court’s ruling is binding on the Berlin regional court, which must decide the case accordingly.

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