In today’s issue of German newspaper Handelsblatt, Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger has announced that he wants Google to pay for using copyrighted material in the EU:

When Google takes intellectual works from within the EU and works with them, then the EU can protect those works and demand a levy from Google.

The possible unintended consequences of such an attempt can currently be witnessed in Germany, where a new ancillary copyright law for press publishers was originally designed as a Google tax. In practice, however, the law has led to the collections society VG Media collecting money from all news aggregators and search engines except for Google. It’s unclear from Oettinger’s statement if he is planning to export the German law, which can well be said to have failed completely, to the European level. If that is the case, it would be the worst possible start for the long awaited European copyright reform.

I have turned to the Commission to find out how they view the effects of the German ancillary copyright law on Google’s dominant market position and whether they are planning any similar bills:


In March 2013, the German parliament passed a change of its national copyright law in order to introduce an ancillary copyright for press publishers (“Presseverleger-Leistungsschutzrecht”), which is now being enforced by the collections society VG Media against search engine operators. Several search engines have stopped including search results from web sites that belong to companies represented by VG Media. After Google announced to strip down snippets to headlines, VG Media granted Google a gratis license. This preferential treatment for Google by VG Media is thought to strengthen Google’s market position at the very same time the EU is still investigating allegations of antitrust violations by Google. Under the anxillary copyright law for press publishers in Germany, all search engines except for Google have to pay for using news snippets.


  1. Does the Commission share the concern over the predictable effects of the German Presseverleger-Leistungsschutzrecht, especially relating to the strengthening of Google’s already dominant position in the search engine market?
  2. Will the Commission include the Presseverleger-Leistungsschutzrecht and its effect in its ongoing antitrust investigation?
  3. Have there been any activities by the Commission regarding ancillary copyright laws for press publishers in the member states or on a European level (e.g. studies, meetings, initiatives, hearings)?

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One comment

  1. 1

    I agree with you, Julia. Not the best first step regarding copyright reform. However, coming from Oettinger, one should ask first if he fully understands what is at stake. How ironic would it be that, in all the efforts to ‘break’ Google, its dominant position in the EU market would end up being strengthened.