Content is what makes Google run. Every result it returns is linked to a piece of content somewhere else on the web, be it an article, photo, video or website. Over the years, Google has increased the detail in their results so you get a better idea of what’s behind the curtain before you click.
All results have a couple of lines of text under them drawn from the start of the article or keywords from the site. Some even show you a preview of the site before you click. All of this is intended to help the searcher find what he needs. So it’s a good thing for both the searcher and the content provider, right?
The German government doesn’t think so. New legislation proposes that Google and other search engines and news aggregators are profiting off the works of others and offering nothing in return. So they want to create a new law that says anyone using even a snippet of someone else’s work would have to pay for the right.
Eric Pfanner, writing for the New York Times says;
The proposal addresses a debate that has raged since the early days of the Internet: Who benefits more from digital links and the traffic they generate — search engines, aggregators and other online hubs, or the sites that produce the content?
Google does not sell advertising on its German news aggregation service, which displays snippets of articles and links to the originating sites. But the company earns billions of euros from advertising on its search engine and other services.
Under the new law, if I was Google Germany, I’d have to pay the New York Times for posting that snippet here. But as a journalist, I’d be okay because. . .
Freedom of speech would be protected, they insist, because certain uses, like journalistic citations from other news articles, would be exempt. The coalition document says private Internet users would not have to pay any fees.
I certainly agree that content producers should be compensated when someone else profits from their work, but I can’t imagine how you would implement such a system. Imagine Google having to pay for every search result, every photo and every video that pops up on their pages.
If we’re talking about reproducing entire articles, then yes, payment is due. But where in between do we draw the line? Is a paragraph fair use? And how would you apply that to photos? It’s okay to show half a photo but if you show the whole photo then Google has to pay the creator? And who is the creator? With billions of photos being grabbed and shared from page to page, finding the original source is near impossible.
I like that Germany is trying to police unfair usage, but in this case, it’s likely that the users will simply close up shop and move out rather than comply. Don’t think so? When Amazon was told to pay sales tax in certain states, they simply cut off the thousands of affiliates who depend on that income. Don’t think Google wouldn’t hesitate to shut down rather than pay up.