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Google News becomes opt-in for German publishers after copyright law change

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Google News
Google News

Since Google News began, publishers have complained that it scrapes their content and offers little in return, letting readers get vital parts of stories as short snippets. In late 2012, the site settled with Belgian publishers after a six-year-long lawsuit, and it recently reached a similar agreement in France. Now, in the wake of a shift in German copyright law, Google is changing the way News operates, at least in one country. As of today, publishers will be asked to confirm whether they want to appear in News results, essentially turning it into an opt-in system.

While Google hopes that publishers will continue to see value in appearing in results, it's not precisely doing this voluntarily. It's the result of legislation that could let publishers charge engines like Google to reproduce their content and sell ads against it. The law, which has been in the works since last year, allows aggregators to use very small excerpts of text in search results, but reproducing fuller portions could incur charges.

While the New York Times points out that Google doesn't sell ads directly on its German News service, Google says that "legal uncertainty" surrounding the change is prompting its decision to make the switch. Outside Germany, it's possible to stop results from appearing in Google News by using a robots.txt file or other tool, but this opt-out system requires an explicit change on the part of the site. So far, that policy doesn't seem to be changing.

Update: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that flagging sites to be ignored in News would cause them to be ignored in Search as well; separate tags can be set for the two services.