Collection society VG Media brought the case against Google in a Berlin court last year, disputing the amount of remuneration that its publisher members may be entitled to when snippets of their text are used in Google’s news service.
Google News draws from multiple sources across the internet and aggregates them into a single spot with links to each individual story, as well as snippets taken from the original sources to allow users to glean their contents.
VG Media has demanded that Google provide information on the amount of profit it earns from the third-party adverts that are hosted on its news platform, and offer fair remuneration for the use of its members’ content.
But the Berlin Regional Court said that the “decision of the CJEU is necessary in the litigation”, in justification for referring questions to the EU’s highest court.
“The applicant is legally relying on the power protection law, which has been in force since August 2013, under the Copyright Act.”
“[The court] assumes that the action would be partially justified if the provisions of the [Copyright Act] were applicable,” the Berlin court said.
But there are questions over whether these provisions are enforceable, as the German Copyright Act has not undergone a notification procedure as required by EU law.
According to Technical Standards and Regulations Directive, member states must inform the EU of any draft technical regulation prior to its adoption.
Starting from the date of notification of the draft, there is a three-month standstill period, which prohibits the notifying member state from adopting the technical regulation and enables the EU and other member states to examine the legislation.
The Berlin Regional Court said: “However, according to the case law of the CJEU, that is the case only if such a notification procedure had been carried out. The Berlin Regional Court cannot itself take this decision, so the legal questions are to be submitted to the CJEU.”
The referral comes as the European Commission presses ahead with its Digital Single Market plans, including the introduction of a link right that would allow press publishers to acquire licence fees from third parties who use their content, up to 20 years from publication.