German Google News becoming opt-in service following publisher backlash

We have it so easy here – add a bit of code to a webpage, publish some content that more than five people see, and voila! Instant Google News success.

Of course, the actual process for getting published on Google's up-to-the-minute news engine is a bit more complicated than that. For German publishers, it's about to get a tad more complicated still – Google's officially turning the German version of Google News into an opt-in service starting 1 August. And if that seems like a bit more of a hassle than Google's current web crawling technique for news, that's because it is. In this matter, Google's hands are a bit tied.

The move all stems from changes to German copyright laws as a result of legislation passed earlier this year. Google escaped some of the original legislation's stricter proposals – that the company would have to pay up any time it used content from German publishers no matter how much content was actually used. Instead, Google can freely publish what's been called "snippets" without having to pay licensing fees to publishers.

Of course, nobody really knows what a "snippet" is, which puts Google in a bit of a bind. What happens when its service crawls and publishes a headline or description that, to a publisher, is a bit more than just a "snippet?" What happens when Google does that en masse?

In an effort to prevent these thorny issues from being raised after the fact, Google's changes will require German publishers to notify Google that they would like their content picked up and published by Google News. And while Google hasn't explicitly said so, it's likely that the company will use this authorisation as a defence should publishers come a-knocking with payment requests — you opted into the free service, after all.

Sites that don't opt into Google News in Germany will be automatically removed from Google News on the specified date. Publishers in other countries will not be affected by Google's change – content will still be automatically pulled from sites that publish it, so long as sites don't use technical tools like robots.txt files or meta tags to prevent Google from indexing their content.

The full text of Google's announcement – for those who speak German – was posted on its German product blog.

Although Google maintains that its free service provides valuable web traffic to publishers, some publishers argue that Google has created its news empire on the back of their content – a cat-and-mouse dilemma if we've ever heard one.

Nevertheless, reports TechCrunch, a number of major German publishers are already planning to opt-in to Google News.

This isn't the only spot of difficulty Google has found itself in on the continent. French authorities last week threatened to take action against the search giant, as its privacy policy currently violates French laws.