Thursday, March 07, 2013

Re Google News: Size Matters in Germany

So, according to my 1709 Blog Friends (who are closely related to the legendary IPKats):

Bloomberg now reports that the Bundestag has agreed [to] a bill which provides that:
- News aggregators may display "single words or very small text excerpts" from to publishers' websites free of charge, however it does not define what constitutes a small excerpt.
- Publishers will be given one year during which they have the sole rights to commercially use their journalistic content. Presumably the above exception applies during this year - perhaps a German-speaking reader could clarify this?
- Mere linking cannot be prohibited.
This arises from attempts to stop or license Google’s über-popular news search service in Germany.

The important takeaway here is that it is now clear that size matters in Germany.

And this is not necessarily bad news. Google is, as always, very clever. It’s good to know that you can quote one “single word” for sure. Some German words are far from short and are indeed quite a mouthful.  For example, from

Words listed in alphabetical order (with gender, letter count)
(die, 41 letters) "regulation requiring a prescription for an anesthetic"
(der, 30 letters) This word may be short in comparison to those below, but it's a real word submitted by Robin in our Forum, taken from a letter he received. It means roughly "head district chimney sweep."
bauunterbeamtengesellschaft (one word, no hyphen)
(die, 79 letters, 80 with new German spelling [one more 'f' in ...dampfschifffahrts...]) "association of subordinate officials of the head office management of the Danube steamboat electrical services" (the name of a pre-war club in Vienna) - Not really useful, this word is more of a desperate attempt to lengthen the word below.
(der, 42 letters) "Danube steamship company captain"
(die, plur., 39 letters) "legal protection insurance companies"
According to Guinness, this was the longest German dictionary word in everyday usage, but the word below is a longer legitimate, official "longest word" — in semi-everyday usage.
(das, 63 letters) "beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law"
This was a 1999 German Word of the Year, and it also won a special award as the longest German word for that year. It refers to a "law for regulating the labeling of beef" - all in one word, which is why it is so long. German also likes abbreviations, and this word has one: ReÜAÜG.

So, don’t waste your “single word” exception on silly, little words of only a few syllables when the German language is so rich in multi-poly-syllabic words that would almost fill a tweet quota.

As for “very small excerpts” or “short excerpts” who knows what that means in Germany. Wagner's “short” operas and Beethoven's “short” symphonies are quite lengthy. Are the “short stories” of Thomas Mann really very “short”?

On the other hand, there is something to be said for brevity:

From Shakespeare's Hamlet, 1602:
This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief: your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.


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