03.10.2022

Lettre international is seeking damages from bild-zeitung because it has not "headscarf girl"-scanned the interview and offered it on their own domain

Axel springer ag ceo mathias dopfner, a former music critic, is among the most ardent supporters of a new ancillary copyright, which is allegedly necessary because google earns advertising revenue from small snippets of newspaper news.

However, this argumentation seems a bit strange, at least when one considers that newspapers are free to decide whether google uses their news in this way or not. However, the springer papers did not blithely fail to do so, but for years have been taking every conceivable measure to appear as high up as possible in google’s services, so that their own access figures would increase in this way.

Now the magazine lettre international shows that the new monopoly rights demanded by dopfner are not at all necessary to prevent an unlicensed takeover of content: it obtained a temporary injunction against bild digital gmbh, which belongs to the axel springer publishing house co. Kg, because these the some weeks ago broadly by the mainstream media gone "headscarf girl"-interview with bundesbank board member thilo sarrazin and offered it on its own domain, which was covered with advertising. And not as a short outline with a link to the original, as google does, but in its entirety.

The berlin regional court concluded in the preliminary injunction case that this takeover was a clear violation of the copyright of the author frank berberich, who had assigned his rights of use to lettre international verlags gmbh. In response, the bild digital gmbh co. Kg deleted the text.

Lettre lawyer johannes eisenberg (who caused a stir in the past by bringing down baron von gravenreuth, among others) is now demanding information on the business figures of the springer publishing division in order to claim damages in the form of profit skimming. In addition, he announced claims for damages in the form of royalties as well as concrete damages for loss of assets, because lettre is of the opinion that due to the media presence numerous potential readers would have bought a copy of the 17 euro magazine if the complete text had not been offered free of charge on the image domain.

With the axel springer publishing house one means opposite telepolis that lettre international of the picture newspaper the interview with a "reference to the source" which was interpreted as permission. On the other hand, it is stated on the pages of lettres that the fax only served as information and the note for possible short quotations.

After the magazine had provided dpa with information about a berlin ie with more than 40 texts and over 20 artistic works, the magazine not only published a report about it, but also about parts of the interview with thilo sarrazin. When the bild-zeitung contacted the magazine, it was pointed out that the dpa had taken individual sentences out of context, which were about globalization, the world wage and the ban on subsidized jobs by the eu. For this reason, the interview was also sent by fax. After that, the bild-zeitung had called several times and asked for permission to publish it online, but had always explicitly forbidden it. Nevertheless, the interview had been published a few hours before it was the subject of the ard program plasberg was covered with advertising on bild.De-domain appeared.

According to lettre, if springer had wanted to publish the text online, it had not been faxed, but sent electronically. Already from the fact that the picture version of the interview contained scanning errors, it is clear that the original was not intended for this purpose. In addition, focus had also inquired about the same matter and had received a negative response, among other things with reference to equal treatment with bild-zeitung, which is why the appearance of the text there gave the impression that one had been hoodwinked. As a third argument for the improbability of the springer claim, the gmbh argues that the business model of the non-subsidized small publishing house consists in the sale of printed works, which is why it does not publish texts online as a matter of principle and did not do so in the case of the sarrazin interview either.

It is possible that axel springer verlag will argue in the trial for damages that the sales figures of lettre international could have risen powerfully precisely because of the coverage in the mainstream media. But this would be an argument with which google could actually demand money from springer (instead of the other way around) – after all, the one corporation also makes sure that people become aware of the other’s offer.

So the event shows two things: first, the legal instruments to fight the publishers’ deplored "content stealing" the legal means to take action are already available, but they are being used in a highly asymmetrical manner due to the effective inequality of treatment resulting from the law on warnings, lawyers’ fees, and procedural law. The tightening of new monopoly rights would only lead to the fundamental rights of freedom of the press to quote, criticize and report on facts being so severely restricted that democratic opinion-forming would probably suffer as a result.

If there was an ancillary copyright, as demanded by matthias dopfner or hubert burda, then only selected media could be informed about politically unsuitable crimes or scandals, which would then offer the news, now protected by a monopoly, exclusively to a very small selected group of readers for a lot of money – and sue everyone else who reported on it. A possibility that could seem very tempting not only to some publishers, but also to some politicians.

As long as there are no stop signs fed with secret lists, however, german internet users still had the possibility to retrieve such information abroad – for example at wikileaks, where on monday unredacted versions of censored passages from gunter wallraff’s book the lead story were discontinued. For the work published in 1970, with which the journalist became famous, he had been employed by the bild newspaper in hanover and was thus able to uncover the methods with which the paper was working at the time. Afterwards the axel springer publishing house invested however much money in lawyers, why the book had to appear since its second edition in a partially blackened catch.

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