You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

EDITORIAL: Germany proposes a Drudge Tax

Government seeks to impose fees on news aggregators

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

European politicians are on the hunt for new sources of revenue as the continent's fiscal situation worsens. The level of desperation is clear in the latest move from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government to tap into the cash reserves of Internet search engine giant Google to bolster that country's ailing publishing industry.

The second item on the coalition's list of priorities released last week was a proposal to slap online news aggregators with a tax. "Online commercial vendors, such as search engines and news aggregators, should in the future pay a fee to publishers for the distribution of press products (such as news articles) on the Internet," the document explains. Any business that links to a news article with a brief excerpt is subject to the scheme.

This action has far more to do with protectionism than protecting intellectual property rights. Websites such as the indispensable Drudge Report, Times 24/7, Real Clear Politics, Digg, Fark and Reddit collect news from sources spread across the Web. These sites are wildly popular because they draw the important stories together in one convenient place, fulfilling a very specific need among a news-hungry public.

Far from leeching off newspapers and print journalists, aggregators are essential to spreading the word about important stories. They drive significant traffic, which in turn generates revenue for content providers. It's a win for both sides. For publishers that disagree, Google already includes a simple mechanism for websites to exclude themselves from search results. If the purported theft of content were truly the issue, that would end the discussion.

That it doesn't shows this tax is not a matter of principle, but of old-fashioned crony capitalism. The new economy will be used to bail out the old economy simply because the new economy's lobbyists aren't as well-connected.

Europe isn't alone in this failing. Two years ago, the Federal Trade Commission began work on a project to "reinvent journalism" which would have taxed news aggregators. Fortunately, the trial balloon was quickly shot down.

The Old World has let the balloons fly, harassing Google on more than just copyright issues. A European Union antitrust inquiry is expected to wrap up in the next few weeks. The eurocrats think the company may have broken laws by daring to offer a search engine service so good that few consumers see the need to use Microsoft's Bing alternative search offering.

When Google rolled out its "Street View" map service in 2007, the governments in Austria, France, Greece, Italy and Switzerland pounced, accusing the company of violating privacy laws by photographing public streets. Never mind that these same governments are more than happy to use speed cameras to photograph every passing car, so long as it means raking in millions in revenue.

Europe needs to stop punishing innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit, at least if it ever wants to see the economy recover. Bureaucracies are ill-equipped to pick winners and losers in the marketplace. The Internet is doing just fine without governmental meddling. It ought to be left alone.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks
You Might Also Like
  • Maureen McDonnell looks on as her husband, former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, made a statement on Tuesday after the couple was indicted on corruption charges. (associated press)

    PRUDEN: Where have the big-time grifters gone?

  • This photo taken Jan. 9, 2014,  shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gesturing as he answers a question during a news conference  at the Statehouse in Trenton.  Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme orchestrated by key aides. The early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination will make a case Tuesday Jan. 14, 2014, that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically, according to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

    BRUCE: Bombastic arrogance or humble determination? Chris Christie’s choice

  • ** FILE ** Secretary of State Hillary Rodham testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

    PRUDEN: The question to haunt the West

  • Get Breaking Alerts