German Regulator Backs Google Over Publishers, As Europe Gets Embarrassing

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German regulators will not pursue a complaint brought against Google by a group of publishers for giving users access to their news articles.

A number of German publishers, including Axel Springer and Burda, brought the action under a group called VG Media to demand Google pay them for making their articles available to the public on the search engine without paying them.

But Andreas Mundt, president of Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, said in a statement on Friday that: “Sufficient suspicion is always necessary to initiate an abuse procedure. The complaint from VG Media did not establish this.” In other words, there’s no suspicion of abuse – Google is just doing the job of a search engine. Duh.

German legislation came into effect a year ago stating that publishers can stop search engines from using their news articles beyond very short excerpts.

The cartel office has ruled that the scope of that legislation is not entirely clear, but it would continue to monitor Google’s treatment of publishers’ and launch anti-trust proceedings if that was warranted.

In contrast, Spain has passed a law requiring news aggregators such as Google News to pay publishers a fee if they link to their content. Supporters say it will prevent copyright infringements. Opponents say it limits freedom of expression. However, no-one is quite sure how the Google Tax will work.

And guess – what? Spain was where the “right to be forgotten” began, with the European Commission recently ruling that individuals can demand Google remove unfavourable links about them from search results displayed in Europe. The ruling does not apply to Google.com, which is where I find myself search much more these days…

Frankly, some European countries’ attitude to the Internet is becoming embarrassing. I’m sure George Orwell would be shaking his head right now. As least this German regulator seems to get it.