Tuesday, November 27, 2012 | 5:40 PM
For years now, you’ve been able to type a few words into your computer and get answers from an ever-growing sea of websites. Soon, however, this could change. The German Parliament this week begins debating a proposal for a new law which threatens to change the web as we’ve known for the last two decades - and make finding online information much more difficult in future.
That’s why today we’re launching an information campaign, Dein Netz, to give the facts about the proposed law and to invite you to contribute to the debate, in person and online.
German news publishers are seeking to extend dramatically the reach of copyright law. Today it prevents copying of articles, but the proposals would place restrictions on even a ‘snippet’ of an article, such as is common found in search engine results. Snippets help people understand, compare and evaluate which websites to visit. If enacted, the law would force search engines, news aggregators and many other online services that help people locate information online to contract with publishers in order to show a snippet of what is available.
That would be complete reversal of the legal situation today where the display of snippets is permitted. The European Journalism Centre recently compared this to asking “your local newsstand ... to pay royalties for exhibiting the papers and magazines” it has on display. From then on, the simple act of linking or displaying snippets would become fraught with legal risk.
It would also be a reversal of the practices we see on the web today. When Google’s web crawler requests copies of pages from a publisher’s website, it is clear from where the request comes, and it is for the publisher to decide whether their server responds. In fact, virtually all publishers welcome crawlers and many voluntarily provide specific additional information to help crawlers find pages (in the form of a sitemap). A further set of highly refined controls is also available to publishers through the robots exclusion protocol that we have blogged in the past.
The end result is that, as one of many ways people find news content, Google News and Google search sends around four billion clicks through to publishers each month. That’s significant for us because there is no advertising on Google News in Europe. But Google is frequently one of the advertising service providers for the major news publishers (even of our most vocal critics in this debate), so our opportunity to make money is when users click on a link and go to the site of of one of our partners in the news industry. Looked at globally and across all web publishing businesses, Google shared $7 billion of advertising revenue last year.
We want to build win-win ways to partner with publishers. What we want to avoid is a system that puts the brakes on the open Internet, limits choice for people looking for information, and dramatically raises the cost of online innovation.
Please take a few minutes to look through our campaign site. Please get involved. You only have a limited amount of time to defend your Internet!