* Germany plans to let publishers charge search engines for
* Parliament to debate legislation on Thursday
* Google launched high profile campaign against bill
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN, Nov 28 Senior German politicians have
denounced as propaganda a campaign by Google to
mobilise public opinion against proposed legislation to let
publishers charge search engines for displaying newspaper
Internet lobbyists say they are worried the German law will
set a precedent for other countries such as France and Italy
that have shown an interest in having Google pay publishers for
the right to show their news snippets in its search results.
Lawmakers in Berlin will debate the bill in the Bundestag
(lower house) on Thursday. Google says the law would make it
harder for users to retrieve information via the Internet.
Google launched its campaign against the bill on Tuesday
with advertisements in German newspapers and a web information
site called "Defend your web".
"Such a law would hit every Internet user in Germany,"
Stefan Tweraser, country manager for Google Germany, said in a
statement. "An ancillary copyright means less information for
consumers and higher costs for companies."
The campaign has caused outrage among some members of German
Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right coalition.
"The campaign initiated by Google is cheap propaganda," said
conservative lawmakers Guenter Krings and Ansgar Heveling.
"Under the guise of a supposed project for the freedom of
the Internet, an attempt is being made to coopt its users for
its own lobbying," the two said in a statement.
Supporters of the law argue that newspaper publishers should
be able to benefit from advertising revenues earned by search
engines using their content.
Under the plans, publishers would get a bigger say over how
their articles are used on the Internet and could charge search
engines for showing articles or extracts.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger,
a member of the Free Democrats (FDP) who share power in Merkel's
government, said she was astonished that Google was trying to
monopolise opinion-making. She is responsible for the law.
Germany's newspaper industry, suffering from economic
slowdown and keen to get its hands on any revenues it can, backs
the plans and railed against Google's campaign.
"The panic mongering from Google has no justification,"
Germany's BDZV newspaper association said in a statement.
"The argument from search engine companies that Internet
searching and retrieval will be made more difficult is not
serious. Private use, reading, following links and quoting will
be possible, just as before."
Internet lobbyists in Brussels fear the European Commission
is sympathetic to publisher demands for a piece of Google's
profits online. Recent statements, they say, are proof.
"Consumers are not the only ones facing difficulties,"
Michel Barnier, the EU's internal market commissioner, said in a
speech on Nov. 7. "Think of newspaper publishers who see the
content they produce being used by others to attract consumers
on the net and generate advertising revenues."
French newspapers and magazines want Google to pay them for
linking to their articles on Google. The French government has
named a mediator to negotiate with the press and Google to try
to get a deal by the end of the year.
If no deal emerges, President Francois Hollande's government
will ask parliament to draft a law modifying copyright laws to
protect the press from appropriation of its content online,
according to a letter signed by two ministers on Nov. 28.
(Additional reporting by Harro ten Wolde in Frankfurt, Claire
Davenbport in Brussels and Leila Abboud in Paris; Writing by
Madeline Chambers, Editing by Gareth Jones and)