German parliament to discuss controversial online copyright bill

Earlier this week, Google started a campaign against the proposed law

By Loek Essers, IDG News Service |  IT Management

The German parliament is set to discuss a controversial online copyright bill that is meant to allow news publishers to charge search engines such as Google for reproducing short snippets from their articles.

The parliament is set to discuss the draft legislation late on Thursday evening, a spokeswoman for the parliament said. Debate will begin at midnight and last about 40 minutes; no vote will take place at that time.

The draft law proposes that publishers could charge a search engine for republishing snippets of articles, or eventually allow them to sue search engines like Google for copyright infringement. The bill was proposed by the Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV), which contends that search engines are pirating their content by publishing the snippets without asking for consent, and without sharing revenue with the publishers.

Earlier this week, Google started on online campaign against the bill, which was backed by the German cabinet in August. Under the title "Defend Your Net" the search giant called on Germans to back its protest because the bill can "massively disturb" the way people search and find information on the Internet.

The campaign site has had more than 500,000 visitors and more than 25,000 people have signed an online petition against the law, said Google spokesman Mark Jansen in an email. "We are delighted that this important debate for the German web is finally taking place and so many Germans care about the web and its services for users," he said.

Discussion sparked during the week between supporters and opponents of the bill. Google was backed by Mozilla, which gets nearly all its revenue from search engine deals.

"Adopting such rules may be bad for users and the web," wrote Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Associate General Counsel at Mozilla on the company's blog. If the bill becomes law, search engines are likely to simply remove the publishers from their index, meaning locating news becomes more difficult, she wrote. "Impediments to this information flow, be they commercial, political or even legal, restrict the real benefits the Web has to offer," she added.

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