A group of publishers represented by VG Media, the German copyright consortium, have been unsuccessful in seeking 1 billion euros from Google’s parent-company Alphabet, after claiming that a German regulation entitled them to claim fees every time a Google search took a user to an extract from one of its members’ newspapers.
VG Media had argued that, according to German copyright law, the display of summaries of or extracts from newspaper and magazine articles by Google’s “Google News” service constituted individual copyright infringements, as the publishers in question had not given permission for the material to be shared or viewed. According to VG Media, this meant that backdated fees were owed from 2013 onwards, when the particular provision came into force.
However, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that, as the provision in question was a “technical regulation” and therefore fell within the ambit of Directive 98/34, the provision ought first to have been notified to the European Commission. This meant that it was not enforceable.
According to the ECJ, the German provision “must be disregarded in the absence of its prior notification to the Commission”.
The German government has confirmed that it will be notifying the Commission as required in due course. With the EU Copyright Directive requiring that member states legislate to, potentially, require services such as Google News to pay fees whenever they include extracts from copyrighted material in their search results, Google’s victory against VG Media may only be temporary.