Google Strikes Early in EU Battle Over News Snippets

(CN) – An EU high court adviser said 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. 

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

European Court of Justice Advocate General Gerard Hogan’s non-binding opinion says the Luxembourg-based court should halt Germany’s policy because it should have been taken up with the European Commission as it is a technical regulation.

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 that said internet search engine operators cannot provide 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 Hogan said Thursday in an advisory opinion that the German law amounts to a technical regulation under an EU directive from 1998 and therefore the draft legislation should have been submitted to the European Commission for review.  

“The court should rule that the new German rules prohibiting search engines from providing excerpts of press products without prior authorisation by the publisher must not be applied,” Hogan said. “Those rules should have been notified to the Commission as they constitute a technical regulation specifically aimed at a particular information society service, namely, the provision of press products through the use of internet search engines.”

The European Court of Justice typically follows recommendations from its advisers. It is expected to issue a ruling on the matter in the coming months.

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