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Berlin Judge asks: Is the German Ancillary Copyright even legal?

Germany has Ancillary Copyright (“Leistungsschutzrecht“), but it does not work. Currently the organisation trying to cash in on it, VG Media, is suing Google, and the case is being heard at the Landgericht Berlin.

Die Zeit reports that Judge Peter Scholz is asking if the German Ancillary Copyright is formally invalid, because by construction it might have been that the Euorpean Union would have had to be formally notified before it became law.

Also, the text of the law is unclear according to Scholz, because it does not differentiate between regular Copyright and the special protection it grants, and what the limits are that the law grants to free usage of headlines for display in search engine results. The text of the law says “single words and the smallest of text fragments”, but does not define what that means. VG Media supports the view that this is “seven words”.

In other legislations, Google has rather been discontinuing Google News than to pay for linking to Newspapers, and has been unlisting newspapers in regular search results that would not grant a free usage license going beyond Ancillary Copyright.

This affects traffic to these sites, essentially making them invisible. VG Media is claiming that such an unlisting is unfair under Antitrust law, and wants to make listing news sites mandatory. This would be effectively forcing Google to list newspapers in search results and at the same time also force them to pay for a license to do that. Google is of course opposed to such a construction.

Published inGoing Digital and the Copyright

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