An ongoing duel between the German online publishing industry and Google over the rights to display snippets of their content has resulted in a ceasefire for the publishers.

Over 200 websites lobbied to prevent Google from including sneak peeks of their content on its search rankings unless the site came to an agreement to do so. Going under the name of VG Media, the publishers argued that an ancillary copyright law should have disallowed Google from being allowed to display previews of content to power their own business.

Initial action witnessed earlier this month saw the removal of news snippets and images on Google, leaving just the link and a headline to list. A statement from VG Media, which includes the likes of Axel Springer SE and Burda, has effectively spelt out the group’s desire to remain on the site in their previous form until their case for civil action gains weight.

Losing the battle, winning the war?

The copyright law that separates the two sides goes by the title of ‘Leistungsschutzrecht fur Presseverleger’, which losely trans. Brought into play in early 2013, the bill states that companies such as Google are not required to pay for the short extracts of text that fall under their organic search results.   

The search engine spoke before the rules were published to state that preventing content previews from being ranked would have a detrimental impact on readership. Eventually the rules were tweaked to allow Google the luxury of being able to include news snippets below each search result.  

However, VG Media argues that other statements listed in the same document indicate that sites like Google must pay for displaying content that keeps their business ticking along.

After VG Media launched an attempt to sue its nemesis, Google went on to pull several content snippets from their search results to protect its own back. This drastic form of action was said to have significantly reduced the amount of information each user sees when browsing for content on the engine, with the publishers’ search rankings reportedly experiencing something of a downfall as a result.

Many saw the events of last month as a sign of Google bowing to pressure from the publishers it aims to promote, while admittedly selling accompanying ad space at the same time. Yet after deeming their former search presence imperative to the running of their sites, VG Media has been forced to temporarily accept defeat and allow Google to call the shots. 

So, what now?

The group maintains that Google is still in the wrong and is still expected to push forward with a legal case against the search company which was launched last summer. 

Germany’s publishing houses insist that letting big enterprises like Google easily obtain the rights to publish their content is having an effect on their businesses, pushing some closer to bankruptcy. 

In the meantime, Google has received blessing from the group of publishers to return their results back to their previous state while they consider the next steps.