Thursday night, after 11 p.m. (!), the German parliament will discuss an amendment of copyright laws that will harm the Internet as we know it. Some traditional news corporations and their friends in the current government want Internet news aggregators to pay licensing fees to ailing news providers. Making a long story short, they require Google to share some of its profits with them.
So far so bad.
The unintended consequence of this poorly designed policy are disastrous. It will kill one of my dearest projects. Since 1999, my brother and I have been offering a free news service called NEWSTRAL.com, which displays the top headlines of major and regional news sources. Since then, millions of readers have relied on this plain and easy service.
We play fair. Newstral.com gives users the clear overview they are looking for – and channels readers to the news provider’s websites, without any detour. If this isn’t a classical win-win situation, what is?
Apparently some editors are not content: They want the readers that the news aggregators provide – and money on top. We cannot do this. Our income is hardly covering the server costs, leaving no slack that can be passed on. So if this law really becomes reality, we will have to close down.
In a sense, Newstral.com will be collateral damage in a war between the old and new elites of the news business. It speaks for itself that this law will be on the parliament’s agenda in the wee hours. Shady business thrives at night.