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Google News avoids 'link tax' in Germany but case continues

Google was handed a small victory in Germany last week when lawmakers approved a bill that will allow the search giant to freely include headlines and snippets from German publishers on services like Google News.

Using a larger portion of content, however, will require payment.

At issue is an update to Germany's Federal Copyright law. As initially proposed, the bill would have required payment any time that Google used content from German publishers - including the headlines and blurbs you see on Google News. As a result, Google launched a petition in November that called on German residents to contact their lawmakers and protest the bill.

According to Bloomberg, the German Bundestag today approved an amended version of the bill that would allow for the free use of snippets by a vote of 293 - 243.

The issue is not yet final, however. The country's other legislative body, the Bundesrat, must also vote on the legislation, according to Deutsche Welle.

As DW pointed out, the bill that passed the Bundestag does not really define what constitutes a "snippet," so issues could remain.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told Bloomberg that today's vote stops "ancillary copyright in its most damaging form." Still, Google would prefer the issue not be on the legislative agenda at all.

This is not new territory for the search giant; Google has fought this fight all over Europe lately. In December, Google reached a deal with Belgian publishers after six years of litigation that allowed Google to include the publishers' content on its network. Last month, Google reached a similar deal with French publishers. That included a commitment from Google to advertise in the Belgian newspapers, while those publishers in turn will use AdWords and other Google platforms in an effort to attract new readers.

Google has argued that inclusion on Google News helps boost traffic to publishers' websites. But some publishers argue that Google is using its content for free to boost its own network.