German Bundestag Approves Downgraded Version of a New Copyright Bill

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Online aggregators like Google News are usually listing various links to articles of different online newspapers and combine them with short excerpts of these articles. On Friday, March 1, 2013, the German “Bundestag” approved a copyright bill concerning these reproductions of excerpts of online newspaper articles. If the new law passes the German “Bundesrat” successfully it will shortly come into effect.

In its original version, the bill provided compulsory licensing for the reproduction of the smallest excerpt of an online newspaper article on an online aggregator’s website. But a few days before this bill was to be debated in the German “Bundestag”, it was changed profoundly. Under the current version of the new copyright law the reproduction of single words or of smallest excerpts of text shall be allowed without any licensing agreement. Therefore, the new copyright law largely lost its original purpose to let the online newspaper publishers participate on the profits generated by using excerpts of their online articles on online aggregator’s websites.

As a result, both, lawmakers and the concerned online companies are strenuously discussing the value of the new law. It passed the German “Bundestag” by only 293 to 243 votes.

Most of those affected by the new copyright law don’t estimate it being a thorough success. Though the enlargement of the online publishers’ rights isn’t as considerable as in the original version of the bill, the Federation of German Newspapers Publishers hopes that online publishers will now be enabled to better determine the conditions under which their online articles are provided by other websites.
Online aggregators, however,feel uncertain about the interpretation of “a smallest excerpt of text”. As a result, it is very likely that legal disputes between online newspaper publishers and online aggregators will occur.

Author: Cornelia Heim / Rechtsreferendarin, Charlotte Office
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