Axel Springer SE (FRA SPR), Germany’s biggest news publisher, has backed off its plan to block Google Inc (NASDAQ GOOG) from running snippets of articles from its newspapers, saying that the experiment had caused traffic to its web sites to decline dramatically.
Google has won a major battle as European publishers give up on trying to levy licensing fees for the news snippets provided by web searches. The German media firm noted a two-week-old experiment to only allow Google access to its news headlines had caused web traffic to decline precipitously, leading to a decision to allow Google to again showcase snippets of Springer news stories in its search results.
The company highlighted that traffic from clicks on Google search results had fallen by 40% and traffic delivered via Google News had plunged by 80% over the last two weeks. Axel Springer SE (FRA SPR) CEO Mathias Doepfner said on Wednesday that the firm would have “shot ourselves out of the market” if it had continued to demand that Google pay licensing fees.
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Doepfner also pointed out that the dramatic drop in traffic seen by his company’s publications was proof of the tech giant’s overwhelming power in the search market. He continued to say he hoped lawmakers, courts and competition regulators would take steps to control Google’s monopolistic powers.
Publishers in countries all across Europe have lobbied for new national copyright laws that would require Google and other web aggregators to pay licensing fees when they publish snippets of news articles. Related to this, German legislation that came into effect last year allows publishers to prevent search engines and similar services from using their news articles beyond headlines. Spain’s upper house recently passed a similar law giving publishers an “inalienable” right to require that Google and other aggregators pay licensing fees.
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After the law came into effect two weeks ago, VG Media (a group of around 200 German publishers, including Springer) announced that Google could no longer publish snippets of text and images from their articles.
Google complied with the request and ran only headlines of articles in order to minimize legal liability. Google requires publishers who want their content to show up in Google search results to grant them explicit legal permission to do so as well as immunity from any liability for licensing fees.
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