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In Opposition to German News License Fee Proposal, Google Maps Its Supporters

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, January 17 2013

Google has gathered over 100,000 active supporters against a German proposal that would require news aggregators, like the search giant, to pay a license fee for indexing news articles.

As proof, the company has offered — what else — a Google map. In a message sent to people who signed up for updates, Ralf Bremer, German spokesperson for Google, says Google's campaign has gathered over 100,000 active supporters since it launched at the end of November and over two million people who have signed up to track the issue. In addition to producing a video against the proposal, Google ran full-page advertisements in several German newspapers and has been running ads about its campaign targeted to German web users.

Google has now launched a website at www.netz-verteidiger.de, translating to net-defender.de, featuring a map of Germany meant to show opponents of the proposal. It is also promoting the hashtag #DeinNetz, or "your net."

The proposal by the German government was first debated in the German parliament on November 29 in a late-night session that was closely tracked by German Internet activists on Twitter. Supporters from the Conservative CDU, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, say the law is necessary regulation to protect news publishers and that the license fee is limited to apply to the reuse of content by other websites for their own economic purpose and would not affect links by blogs. Opponents among the Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left say the proposal is unclear, and hurt free development of the Internet. The youth organizations of both the Conservative and Left-wing parties have expressed opposition, and even some members of Merkel's party, its Bavarian sister party CSU and Liberal coalition partner FDP have expressed skepticism.

The proposal is scheduled to be discussed anew at a public hearing in the parliament's committee on legal affairs on Jan. 30.

Google and other organizations have also formed an official organization against the law, called Initiative Against a License Fee Law (Initiative Gegen Ein Leistungsschutzrecht) with the acronym IGEL, the word for hedgehog in German.

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