Providing links to content from German publishers could become costly for Microsoft, Google and Yahoo. VG Media, a collection agency for rights holders, has filed a civil suit against Google, requesting a cut of Google’s revenue for quoting and linking to content produced by German publishers.
Right now, the case is in front of an arbitration board, but if that process fails (which it almost certainly will) it will be sent on to a full-blown court case. The news, first reported in English by Jeff Jarvis, is another complication for search engine providers operating in Europe.
In a press release, VG Media said that it expects payments from any company that it considers to infringe on the “ancillary copyright” of its members. That would seem to include other search providers, including Bing and Yahoo.
If VG Media is successful in its quest, that could have serious consequences for Bing, Google and other search engines. Having to pay a cut of its search revenue to third parties would be a drain on Google’s cash flow, especially if the same doctrine used in Germany expanded to other countries.
The move is a part of a long trend of European countries and industries disagreeing with how Google and other search engines do business. There are a number of German properties that are completely blurred out on Google Street View because of the “Verpixelungsrecht” – the ‘right to be pixellated’ – that allows people to remove their homes or businesses from the watchful eye of Google’s mapping cars.
Earlier this year, Google reached an antitrust settlement with the European Union over its advertising practices, which will require the company to offer alternate links alongside its own ads in a complicated system that has drawn the ire of its critics. More recently, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that european users have a right to request that Google de-list links about them.
While it seems unlikely that VG Media will prevail in this case, stranger things certainly have happened when U.S. tech companies find themselves in European courts.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this piece.