The votes are in: Germany’s Bundestag gives tick to controversial online copyright bill

Germany LSR bill protest
Germany LSR bill protest

Germany LSR bill protest
Publishers should be allowed to charge search engines and news aggregators for using anything more than the “smallest” parts of their articles, according to a controversial bill approved by Germany’s Bundestag today.

The bill, known as Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger (LSR) passed with 293 votes for to 243 against, supported by Germany’s ruling coalition parties CDU and FDP.

The bill will now head to the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house to be passed into law – the Bundesrat can’t block the bill entirely, but it can send it back for further consultation.

Neither Germany’s powerful publishing lobby nor Google, a vocal opponent of the bill, has received exactly what they wanted with today’s decision.

The publishers originally pushed for a much more strict form of so-called ancillary copyright – earlier this week, the draft bill was watered-down again to exclude the “smallest” text snippets needed for search engines to function.

Yet it’s still closer than other European countries have come to passing this kind of ancillary copyright bill. France’s government had proposed something similar but settled for Google setting up a €60m digital publishing fund to support publishers.

Ralf BremerIt’ll be up to the courts to test what “smallest” means so it’s possible Google News will still be affected. In a statement today, Google spokesman Ralf Bremer said:

“As a result of today’s vote, ancillary copyright in its most damaging form has been stopped. However, the best outcome for Germany would be no new legislation because it threatens innovation, particularly for startups. It’s also not necessary because publishers and internet companies can innovate together, just as Google has done in many other countries.”

The bill’s other opponents include German internet society Digitalle Gesellschaft, who organised a small protest this morning outside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (pictured above), describing it as “additional and unnecessary”.

The German newspapers’ association BDZV and magazine publishers’ association VZ issued a joint statement to welcome the decision, saying it “closed a legal loophole” and “underscores the value of a free press”.

A big grey area that will need to be cleared up is who exactly will need permission to use anything larger than a “smallest” text snippet. The bill includes companies who function like search engines by systematically accessing content. It is likely to exclude “other companies”, associations, law firms, bloggers and private internet users.

Other countries to have debated similar issues include the USBelgium and Brazil.

Image credit:
LSR protest March 1st: flickr user 
Digitale Gesellschaft

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