Some bad ideas just keep on coming back, despite the fact that they are manifestly stupid. Trying to get Google and others to pay for the privilege of sending more traffic to newspapers by including short snippets from their stories is one of them. Of course, logic would dictate that the newspapers should be paying Google for the marketing it provides, but unfortunately not everyone sees it that way.

Last year, the Belgian courts decided that Google was infringing on newspapers' copyrights just by linking to stories. Google was ordered to remove those links, at which point the newspapers started whining about "harsh retaliation" -- even though it was the court's decision, not Google's, and it was the newspapers' legal action that brought this about.

Sadly, the German government doesn't seem to have been paying attention to that rather ridiculous saga -- or maybe simply doesn't care -- and has just announced that it will bring in a compulsory licensing scheme for the use of even "small parts" of journalistic articles on commercial sites (original German).

The justification is that this will allow publishers to share in the financial benefit arising from this use, and for authors of the articles to receive an "appropriate" contribution, whatever that means. To do that, of course, will require the creation of yet more bureaucracy: a new collecting society (let's hope it doesn't turn out like the German music collection agency GEMA.)

What that overlooks, of course, is that Google, clearly the main target here, doesn't make any money from its Google News service, which is ad free. It would be nice to see Google simply remove all links, as happened in Belgium, and then wait for the German publishers to start complaining about this further example of "harsh retaliation". Sadly, that's unlikely to happen, since Google tends not to take a particularly aggressive stance on these issues (probably hoping to avoid further anti-trust complaints.)

Of course, the analysis above assumes that the still extremely vague proposal is simply a plan to skim some money off major Internet players like Google and to hand it to the German publishing industry so the latter doesn't need to worry about innovating. But given that the copyright industries' sense of entitlement knows no bounds, it's even possible that publishers want this scheme to apply to every quotation from their newspapers and magazines -- including those in blogs with any Google Ads, say, and Facebook posts. Now might be a good time for German Internet users to start raising the alarm, just in case.

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