German court rejects suit by publishers against Google

The neon Google sign in the foyer of Google's new Canadian engineering headquarters in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Power/Files

BERLIN (Reuters) - A Berlin court rejected on Friday a legal complaint filed by German publishers which said Google was abusing its market power by refusing to pay them for displaying newspaper articles online.

Germany’s biggest newspaper publisher, Axel Springer, and 40 other publishers had accused Alphabet Inc’s Google of unfair treatment.

The conflict centered on a long-standing row over payments for newspaper content, which Google makes freely available via its online platforms Google News, YouTube and other services.

While some in the media industry accuse Google of making money at its expense, the Silicon Valley company says publishers profit from advertising revenue generated through its site.

The unfair treatment allegation centered on what German publishers said were threats by Google to punish those media outlets which demanded payment by displaying abbreviated versions of their stories.

But the court declared Google’s business model to be a “win-win” proposition for both parties and said that although Google had a 90 percent share of the German market, it was not treating certain publishers unfairly.

“We don’t want to have legal disputes with publishers,” Google said in a statement after the ruling. “We’d much rather collaborate with them to direct visitors to their websites and apps in order to strengthen digital journalism.”

A related ruling on whether publishers should receive payments from Google for displaying their news articles is still outstanding.

Reporting by Klaus Lauer; Writing by Tina Bellon; Editing by Mark Potter