The search engine cooperates with “FAZ” and “Spiegel”, among others. Articles of the publishers should appear prominently in Google products – including payment content.
The new ancillary copyright for press publishers must be in June 2021. The group that will be hardest hit is now creating facts.
For the first time, Google pays publishers for content that produces it anyway – this is causing a stir because the group has long resisted paying publishers anything. That was a key point in the dispute over ancillary copyright. The question is whether money has to flow to publishers for short scribble texts that Google searchers display.
Google has now announced a “new news format” that is to be developed in cooperation with media partners worldwide. Participating publishers are to provide Google with “high-quality” journalistic content, and the group then places it prominently in its apps and websites. In Germany, these include FAZ, of the mirror and the time there. The Southgerman newspaper is not one of them.
Google has already given money to publishers as part of the “Google News Initiative”, for example for innovation projects. But it has never flowed directly into the daily content of newspapers. At first glance, this comes close to what politicians and publishers have been calling for under the name “ancillary copyright” since 2010.
Google may be trying to alleviate political pressure
The Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) and the collecting society VG Media, in which the media house Axel Springer sets the tone, led politicians to write a law for them in 2013. Google was required to pay the publishers for the “snippets” – short markers for the articles. Google was not ready to do this, but the publishers did not let their articles be listed. The law had practically no effect. Some in the industry already argued that the constantly updated Google News news collection gave their websites a lot of visibility, new readers, and ad money. Despite the unsuccessful first attempts in Germany and Spain, a new ancillary copyright law was passed last year at EU level. The federal government is working on implementation in Germany.
One difference between ancillary copyright law and the new agreement from Google: The group can have a detailed say on what the cooperation with publishers looks like. It is not out of the question that the group will try to alleviate the political and legal pressure through the deal with some publishers.
Whether Google will pay per article and how much money flows exactly, neither Google nor the publishers comment on the SZ request. According to Reuters, a large German media company says the amount is reasonable: “Not too much, but not peanuts either.”
There are further open questions about the look and placement of the new message format. Many details are apparently not yet known to the contractual partners. “The exact form of presentation is currently being worked out together with Google,” says the Daily mirror. No articles would be displayed on Google itself, the time on request with: “We only curate a special, constantly updated area with links to our contributions”.
Apparently the publishers should be able to populate a kind of shop window in “Google News” and “Google Discover”. News is presented on Google News using a secret algorithm. Prominently placed, preferred partner content would go beyond this logic. Discover also follows an algorithm, but is more personalized, users can subscribe to and unsubscribe from topics.
The media involved decide for themselves which content ends up in the shop windows. If it is paid content, Google wants to replace the lost earnings for the publishers. But how the value should be calculated remains unclear. In addition, publishers have to ask themselves: How sensible is it to provide users with a payment barrier on their own platform that they can bypass via Google News? The publishers involved emphasize that the plans will be developed together with Google. The company has been talking about “new product initiatives for mutual benefit for years,” he says mirror on request with. So it came to the project.
Google’s offer of peace to publishers may also prevent an escalation like in France. The country already has a new ancillary copyright law in accordance with EU requirements. Google only shows linked headings of articles there and therefore does not pay anything under the new law. The competition authority is now trying to force the company to negotiate licenses with the publishers. Australia has also become the scene of this dispute. There, the government is trying to force Google and Facebook to pay media.
The BDZV warns of “fig leaf actions”
The Axel Springer publishing house is also not involved, although in recent years it has repeatedly urged Google to pay publishers. In general, initiatives that help publishers to strengthen digital journalism as a business model are welcomed, according to the media company. However, the current initiative “has the potential to restrict media diversity, since Google will retain sovereignty over which publishers agreements are made”. The BDZV, whose president is Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner, also warns of “fig leaf campaigns”.
VG Media has been trying to enforce an ancillary copyright law for years. In the new partnerships, she sees a tactical tool from Google: The interpretation that Google has recognized its responsibility is a “table firework”. And further: “Obviously Google chose a few publishers to pay temporarily for something.” The Funke media group had recently left the collecting society independently of this. The goal is still shared, says Funke, but it will be pursued in a different way in the future.
From June 2021, how much of an article Google displays could be legally limited to just a few words. The federal government is still arguing about how extensive the markers may be. At least the “showcase” from FAZ, mirror and time are then paid – they would probably also be nicely curated on Google under a new ancillary copyright, while all other content would have to get by with four, seven or nine words in the article preview.