You want a 6% Google Tax? Get lost, German copyright bods told

Only snippets longer than seven words are chargeable

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After months of deliberations, Germany's national arbitration board on copyright has told German copyright collection company VG Media to go whistle over its proposal for a six per cent “Google Tax”.

Although the ancillary copyright tax law does indeed apply to Google, said the board, which is part of the German Patent Trademark Office (DPMA), VG’s request for six per cent of the Chocolate Factory’s German revenue was far too high.

The collecting agency originally wanted a massive 11 per cent.

The board based its decision on a specific word count threshold for snippets, so the ancillary copyright fee can now only be collected on snippets of more than seven words, plus the search term.

The law was introduced in 2013 to allow publishers to claim royalties from news aggregators for using very small portions of stories; Google News is, unsurprisingly, the biggest target, hence the scheme’s labelling as a "Google Tax".

This is a bit of a misnomer, however, as the ad-flinger has yet to pay this sort of tax.

The scheme was tried in Spain, where law-makers also made it illegal for publishers to waive their right to fees. The outcome? Google News upped and left Spain altogether.

Now the very publishers that wanted legislation to guarantee them royalties are lobbying the government to repeal the law, as traffic to their sites has dropped.

Europe’s digi commissioner, Gunther H-dot Oettinger, is due to present his proposal for an overhaul of the EU’s copyright laws before the end of the year. Last year, before he took office, H-dot was keen to tell the German press that he wanted to find a way to “protect intellectual works” and “demand a levy from Google”.

“If Google takes intellectual property from the EU and works with it, the EU can protect this property and can demand a charge for it,” he told the daily Handelsblatt.

Since then, however, he has backtracked, so it is unclear whether or not a so-called Google Tax will form part of his draft law.

The Commish is currently holding public consultations on everything from the Audiovisual Media Services Directive to unjustified geo-blocking, but not, strikingly, on ancillary copyright.

This could mean Oetti has already made up his mind... or that he’s not going to touch this particular hot potato with a barge pole. ®

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