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Germany backs law that would charge Google for linking to news

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The German cabinet backed a draft law requiring Google and other news aggregators to pay for summarized information they display before linking to a source – a move that has outraged the Internet giant, politicians and bloggers alike.

The move, backed by publishing giants like the Axel Springer group, was originally proposed by the Federation of German News Publishers – who were very upset with lost advertising revenue.

The law is about piracy and stealing content on the Internet, said federation spokeswoman Anja Pasquay. Search engines are pirating content by publishing the snippets, “and they don’t even ask, they simply take it,” she said.

The federation pushed for even more draconian measures to be signed into law – like making bloggers pay publishers every time they commented on an article and used a quote from it – but German lawmakers thought this to be overly strict, and revised the draft.

However, both German netizens and politicians are in an uproar over the proposed legislation. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opposition called the bill a clear move to limit online freedom, and questioned the very need for such a law. The country’s Pirate Party – which, despite not being represented in Federal Parliament, is very popular, was also vocal in its criticism.

“There are no technical, legal or economic reasons for this law, which puts the brakes on innovation,”Bruno Kramm, an expert on copyright law with the Pirates, told Der Spiegel.

Google has also spoken out against the proposal. The company’s director for public affairs and communications for Northern Europe said an extension of copyright lacks all factual, economic and legal foundations – and would mean massive damage to the German economy.

“This interference with the Internet is unparalleled worldwide. It’s a dark day for the Internet in Germany”, explained Google’s Kay Overbeck in a statement.

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