Since 23 October 2014, the display of search results from welt.de, computerbild.de, sportbild.de and autobild.de on Google have been severely limited. Photo and video offerings were removed from listings completely. This was because of the decision taken by Axel Springer SE not to allow the copyright and rights collection society VG Media to issue free licenses for these four titles to Google for the time being.
The objective of this measure was to document the effects of the downgrading of search results as part of ongoing legal proceedings to enforce the existing press ancillary copyright law. Google abuses its dominant position on the market to force publishers to issue free licenses, thereby making the law, which came into force on 1 August 2013 ineffective. Publishers who refuse to accept this are forced to back down as a result of considerable economic pressure. The economic impact of this market abuse by Google has now been precisely documented. Axel Springer is concluding its data collection today after almost two weeks. The downgrading of search notices has resulted in a loss of nearly 40 percent in traffic volume. On Google's "Google News" user interface, traffic was down by almost 80 percent. These significant losses in such a short time were apparent in differing degrees among the four affected brands. As a result of the discrimination welt.de would drop below its competitors in the IVM and AGOF rankings, and computerbild.de would lose its rank as one of the Top 10 of all AGOF offerings in Germany. Based on the current downturn, Axel Springer SE estimates the impending financial damage resulting from lost marketing revenues in the seven-figure range per brand over the year as a whole.
Axel Springer has in the meantime instructed VG Media to issue Google a free license for the four titles named with effect from 5 November 2014. This is not done voluntarily, but solely because Axel Springer SE sees no other alternative to the market dominance exercised by Google and the economic pressure resulting therefrom.
In a telephone press conference for the presentation of the quarterly financial report from January to September 2014, the CEO of Axel Springer SE, Dr. Mathias Döpfner, commented on the results of the documentation: "This is perhaps the most successful failure we have ever experienced. As sad as it is, we now know very precisely just how far-reaching the consequences of the discrimination are, as well as the real effects of Google's market power and how Google punishes everyone who exercises a right that has been granted to them by the German Bundestag."
media contact: Edda Fels