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Google launches “Defend Your Net” campaign in Germany against copyright plans (thenextweb.com)
89 points by iProject on Nov 27, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 40 comments



I can't stand "professional journalism" like that. First sentence "For Google, what is happening in Germany right now is a very big issue. If the German Bundestag (government) gets its way".

Budnestag is German parliament, not government. This would be clear, if the author made an effort and read article's snippet, which is cited in his/her own article:

"Later this month a proposed new section to the German Copyright Act is due to be discussed in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag. "

Comming back to merit. I am not specialist, but this legislation is not that stupid as it may sound.

It gives content providers a chance to earn money in other way then putting ads on their websites - ads are good for Google, but not for us because of privacy violation, user tracking and similar practices. Collected data are available on request for FBI, CIA and similar agencies in other countries.

Right now "content aggregators" take for free what they want, as a result those, who provide valuable content are loosing money.

This hits society, since professional journalism is in the decline. We get mostly gossips, unchecked revelation, stupid interpretation of scientific results or advertisers-driven content.

If nobody is able to finance investigative journalism, then it is clear danger for freedom.

On the other hand this regulation does not hit education, general access to knowladge, since content is protected only for a year.


With 'government' this is an issue of regional dialect, not a mistake in the article. I only learned very recently that there are two interpretations of the term. It looks like to you 'government' means the executive body that enforces laws. But to the writer of this article, and I think to most of the US, 'government' includes the entirety of executive, legislative, and judicial.

(At least I think that's your complaint, and not a nitpick of how they explained that Bundestag is an official body.)

Back to the merit of the legislation. Google is only using headlines and tiny snippets. They aren't copying articles. They aren't doing any harm to investigative journalism. All they do is point people at what they were searching for. It's not their responsibility to help the newspapers if the newspapers are having trouble. Google's already linking to them.


The day that google allows its search results to be scraped is the day that I'll be rooting for them in battles like this.

There is quite a bit of hypocrisy in demanding access to the product of a large number of individuals and corporations in an automated way while denying others access to the derivative of those products.

  > http http://www.google.com/robots.txt
  User-agent: *
  Disallow: /search


The issue is a different one. Google does not demand access to news portals, the publishers grant it. If they would not like to appear in the google search, a single entry in the robots.txt would take care of that. However, since google does send them a lot of traffic, publishers actually want to appear as far up in the listing as possible and spend ridiculous amounts of money on SEO. However, now that newspaper publishers have problems monetizing, they turn to the state, point to google and cry "they are making money with our content, we want a share." while forgetting that google provides a service of its own: Google does compile and serve the index, and for that, they take money. They do not serve newspaper pages to the reader or create content.

I have no special feelings for google, but making a law that requires search engine providers to strike a separate contract with any publishing entity whose contents they want to list would hardly be beneficial to any side. It's just that most german publishing houses are too blind to see. They're like a wounded elephant in a porcelain store: Unable to clearly see what damage they're causing to the surrounding world.


"they are making money with our content, we want a share."

And rightly so. Google controls the way people surf the web, as a monopolist they will be hit with regulation like this more frequently. The homepage of those newspapers used to be the main avenue to get to the content rather than search.

Please note that I'm against such legislation, I just feel that Google is operating on a principle of asymmetry and uses its monopoly position to control an ever larger amount of the content on the web and access to that content without wanting to reciprocate by releasing their own content in a similar manner. Until they do I think they don't deserve our pity or support.

It's all take and very little give. I can't fault them for doing that as long as they can get away with it but they really don't deserve to harness public opinion against the legislators that attempt to reduce the strength of the monopoly position.


> And rightly so

Wrong: Google (or Bing or Duckduckgo) is not making money off their content. Google is making money off the index they compile, of the service they offer above and beyond what the publishing houses offer. Nobody wants to go to each newspaper page and see what they write about a specific topic. Now, the publishing houses could agree and build their own index, shut google out and be done with it. They'd even have a much better starting point to do so since they have vastly more information about the content they server. But they don't. Quite to the contrary, they try to shut down services that provide such a service (Perlentaucher springs to my mind here).

It's not about pity and support for google either. There is a monopoly on the other side as well: Most publishing houses are pro this legislation, so you read very little against the proposed law in major publications. It's good that a corporate player now takes up the flag to counterbalance for that - even if it's google.

The proposed law is poorly worded and poorly targeted, it will endanger bloggers who cite from newspaper publications, even linking the headline on facebook may open you up to a lawsuit. It would practically require all bloggers to go back through their blogs and strike all mention of newspaper articles from past articles. So even if I could somehow accept that the publishing houses should be awarded some of googles earnings - in this case I'd have to join their flag. But if you can't rally behind a good cause just because "google deserves a slap on it head", then rally behind IGEL [1] which is the (bloggers) initiative against the proposed law.

[1] http://leistungsschutzrecht.info/


Again the important difference between what a law is INTENDED to be and how it actually USED. And while I see at least some truth in the very basic idea of the leistungsschutzrecht, I also see the potential of using it ways that are very different from the basic idea of helping content creators, especially since it's the very same people who now support that law that used to support ACTA et al..

For me this law is there to protect printed newspapers from the evil internet thing (including small web-only publishers and bloggers). That it's supported by all big german media and publishing houses isn't a coincidence. But in the end it won't help them, since from my point of view the print crisis in Germany is to no small also caused by poor journalism and an unability to create new revenue streams as it is by the "internet" per se.

A further risk, and you can actually call me a little bit of a tin foil hat if you want, you ahve a nice little law in place that can actually be used to suppres inconvinient information. Add all the other laws already in place that are used to hunt movie pirates and file sharers and the Stasi or Gestapo would have cut their right arm of to have equal opportunities to isurvaill and influence the public.

And the forth power in a democracry, the press, is actually promoting things like that just because they are to lacy and stupid to protect their bottom line in a different way.

Do I mean to support Google? No, because Google can also be pretty harsh when profits are concerned but for now Google is the lesser evil. Maybe in 10 years from now there wil be initiatives targeting Google inspired legislations who nows. But right now, the leistungsschutzrecht is like burning down the house in order to prevent from being maybe flooded some day. And not liking the guy who want's to do something about it isn't, IMHO, a good reason to just stand by and watch it happen.


"It's all take and very little give": actually, Google with adsense allows lots of content providers to monetize their traffic.


It's not completely true. Google news does host all the content for some pages (I have no idea if they have the agreement or not). This might depend on the country though as I can't see anything right now that looks like that.


Not in germany. German google news only hosts the first sentences, looks like the cutoff is at about 250 characters. And the proposed law is not about google news, but about google search.


When Google News hosts the entire article, that's because they've worked out a deal. No deal, you get a link. (Or at least that's how it worked last time I looked into it.)


robots.txt has been available since the early days, if anyone wanted to restrict crawlers. Publishers should be happy about the fact that people who invented the early internet tried to be fair to everyone; and made sure there is a way to protect content.

Some publishers now want to redefine these standards which helped everyone. If the published standards of the internet didn't suit some publishers, they didn't have to be on it. Eat the cake, and have it too?

I don't see any reason for Google to hand over their hard work for free; they are playing by the rules.


> I don't see any reason for Google to hand over their hard work for free; they are playing by the rules.

Who said it had to be free? How about sharing revenues? I'm pretty sure that would go a long way towards making a win-win situation. Of course google isn't used to having to pay for its content but that doesn't mean they should not have to. If you displace someones homepage but still use their content then you've entered into a parasitic relationship that will last until the subject dies.

That leaves only losers so the German position is not as unreasonable as you make it out to be.

Maybe those newspapers deserve to die, maybe their time has simply come. Legislation like this is usually only putting off the inevitable and I'm really not in favor. But google crying 'unfair!' is a bit much.


So your basic argument is that the publishers are currently giving away their content for free and have been doing so for years and now, that someone has found a viable business model based on aggregating and indexing that content, they suddenly want a share of those earnings while they still want to give away their content for free?

It wouldn't be any problem at all for the publishers to hide their webpages behind a paywall and then charge for access. They could even try and negotiate a price with google. Now, wether that's a good strategy is a question in itself, but they don't do that. They rather want a "search engine tax" imposed by the state.


Why should Google share revenue? It is a search engine following widely accepted, well defined crawling standards which preceded its existence.


(1) because it isn't their content and they profit from it

(2) because we need a free press, which is a greater good than the income of some corporation

The press has a function that is a cornerstone of modern societies, if the press collectively goes bust we have a serious problem.

It should come as a noteworthy thing that the government (an opposing party here) should need to protect the press. You could easily argue that it is to the governments advantage not to have a free press at all. And yet, they value it enough that they propose (misguided) legislation to protect it.


If the government decides that a free press is of vital importance, there should be a public funding for free press. We do have such a system for TV channels in germany. However, creating misguided legislation to funnel earnings from one private company to a group of other private to bolster their income is not a way to protect free press. To add insult to injury: The free press has not proven to be very free in this whole debate, but rather greedy and profit-driven. There was very little mention of the problems of the given legislation in the free press.

This case is a prime example of big-corporate lobbyism and not at all about free press.


To some a government funding of the press and a 'free' press could be seen as mutually exclusive. Personally I relish the BBC, and hope it continues to report the news, but in general 'government owned' journalism raises it's own questions.


The ARD and ZDF channels are not government funded in germany. It's a fee that gets collected by a dedicated agency, but not a tax. The System has its own set of issues, but in general I think the system is a good idea.


It's just a tax by another name.


For the consumer it certainly looks like that. However, the legal underpinnings are completely different with all sorts of interesting side effects. The basic idea was after WW2 that the radio should be as independent from the government as possible, so a completely separate system of funding was set up. The government has no say in the way the money gets collected or spent and very little ways of influencing how much money gets collected. Now there are some checks and balances and ways how the politicians can actually influence the radio stations, but not via "we'll cut your funding if you don't report what we want."

The system certainly has its flaws and room for improvement, but a purely privately owned system is not a better option.


Oh, I know the background. But the leadership of the public broadcasters is full of party people, so it's not too different from the government in terms of who are the people in charge.


I don't like this legislation, or any other legislation that increases copyright restrictions (especially in favor of clueless dinosaurs), but I also resent the hypocritical way in which Google pretends it's protesting this as a public service.

Google is only interested in what makes money for Google, and it has lost any credibility when it comes to looking out for the public's interest (or "do no evil" in general) a long time ago.

Their campaign should be called "Defend our profit margins", Google is no better than the publishers pushing in favor of this legislation, their interest just accidentally happen to coincide with ours.


That's how you get stuff done. You build a coalition of people whose goals, if not necessarily pure motivations, align with yours. It's not like you're going to get "I support everything Google does, now and forever" tattooed on your forehead because you align with them on this issue.

The perfect is the enemy of the good.


Or not even goals. Two parties vote against a tax-reform package - one voted against because it disagreed with increased mining taxes and the other voted against because the increased mining taxes was too low.

http://www.news.com.au/top-stories/greens-and-coalition-dump...


It's really splitting hairs, but I'd argue that's a commonality of goal (rejecting tax increase), but difference of motivation (too much/not enough). Love the example, though. Politics makes strange bed fellows.


Their campaign should be called "Defend our profit margins", Google is no better than the publishers pushing in favor of this legislation, their interest just accidentally happen to coincide with ours.

So is your argument that it's not in the public's best interest to oppose this legislation, thus why they shouldn't use the slogan "Defend Your Net"?


    GET /news.html HTTP/1.1
    User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

    HTTP/1.1 200 OK
vs.

    GET /news.html HTTP/1.1
    User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)

    HTTP/1.1 403 Forbidden


I'm probably just missing the context of the discussion, but what does this mean & what's its significance?


it's a technical way to prevent google from reaching your site. You easily can do it right now (even better, use robots.txt instead of obscure hacks), but the publishers don't want it. They don't want google to stop showing their content, they want money for it and google is unwilling to pay.


If they don't want to be crawled, they could just change the robots.txt. But nobody does.


Almost nobody: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2012/oct/22/googl...

I'm looking forward to see in a years time what the result of this little experiment is.


Could somebody explain why those news publishers don't just deny the Googlebot access to their content? Why create another vague law, as if we don't already have enough of those in Germany.


Because then those publishers wouldn't be on Google!

...it's silly, but this is what happens when publishers don't understand the Internet.


Somebody remind me again why either robots.txt or serving a 402/Payment required to crawler UAs doesn't work?


Because the publishers want their cake and eat it. They want to be found by Google, but Google should pay them for it. Because they're awesome and the protectors of culture and everything good and right.


I'm quite amused at Google showing the bureaucrats the limits of power. In the long term, we may be replacing one devil with another; but for the time being, Google has done good.


What stops google from simply refusing to crawl sites that want money for appearing in search results?


there's no e-petition for that. If there's one and I didn't find it please add a link


https://epetitionen.bundestag.de/petitionen/_2012/_08/_16/Pe...

the petition is currently pending but it seems they didnt reach enough people.




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