(Adds judge's comment, ruling)
BERLIN May 9 A court in Berlin on Tuesday
referred to the European Court of Justice a dispute in which
German publishers want search engine providers such as Google
to pay them for displaying parts of their newspaper
Germany's biggest newspaper publisher Axel Springer
and 40 other publishers have accused Alphabet Inc's
Google of copyright infringement in the case.
The European Court of Justice will now have to look into
whether a German media law dealing with copyright issues is in
line with European principles.
It must decide whether the German government should have
presented its draft Leistungsschutzrecht law to the European
Commission, the executive body of the European Union, before it
took effect in 2013, judge Peter Scholz said.
"We think that the complaint is at least partially
justified," Scholz said in his ruling, without giving details.
But he said the European Court of Justice should review the
matter, a process that could take around a year, according to a
lawyer for the publishers.
If the court finds the German government should have had its
law reviewed by the EU, that could remove the legal basis for
the publishers' complaint, experts said.
A German Justice Ministry spokesman said the government had
not seen any reason to present the draft law to the European
Commission and get approval.
A Google spokesman said the company remained convinced that
it would prevail, saying Tuesday's ruling showed the German
copyright law was full of contradictions and open-ended
(Reporting by Klaus Lauer; Writing by Michael Nienaber; Editing
by Janet Lawrence)