Monday

21st May 2018

Focus

EU targets Google in copyright reform

  • The US tech giant resents being blamed for the demise of the newspaper business (Photo: Michael McGimpsey)

Google was in the firing line when the European Commission on Wednesday (14 September) laid out plans for how to fix the EU’s outmoded copyright rules.

As part of the package, the EU executive suggested levelling the playing field between media on the one hand, and search engines and news aggregators on the other, by giving the first group special publishers’ rights.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Similar schemes backfired in Germany and Spain (Photo: Alessio Milan)

This means that platforms could have to pay for hosting stories, or even snippets - headlines, accompanying pictures, quotes and introductory sentences - in future.

Publishers’ groups EMMA, ENPA, EPC and NME welcomed the news as ”a necessary and historically important step in guaranteeing media pluralism as an essential basis for freedom of opinion and democracy in the digital world”.

They said all other players in the creative industries enjoyed similar rights already.

The current framework dates back to just 2001, but many say it was fit for the past century when reporting the news was still profitable.

The advent of Internet went hand in hand with falling ad revenues.

The groups said publishers contributed to the success of platforms by providing high quality content, but that platforms did not share their profits fairly.

'Value gap'

Artists have long had similar concerns.

They say more people are listening to music than ever, but this is not reflected in performers’ income.

This is partly blamed on Google’s sister company YouTube.

The commission’s proposal would make it mandatory for video platforms to put programmes in place that scan users' content for protected material.

Such material is today removed only after individual complaints, and, in many cases, is reposted under a different username almost immediately afterward.

The EU executive also wants to increase transparency in the sector by forcing platforms to provide better figures on their profits vis-a-vis use of copyrighted material, so that it becomes clear how much money they are making on artists and reporters’ content.

The European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers (Gesac) called the proposal ”Europe’s first step to end tech giant free riding”.

But not everyone agrees that press and music will be better off after a crackdown on Google.

The US tech giant, whose motto is “don’t be evil”, does not like to be blamed for the demise of the newspaper business.

It also says it does not actually make much money on news services. Today’s headlines - capsized refugee boats, economic woes - do not attract many accompanying adverts, it says.

The US company said in a blog post the EU executive had not “struck the right balance” between the rights of creators and consumers.

"This would effectively turn the internet into a place where everything uploaded to the web must be cleared by lawyers before it can find an audience," Google’s vice president Caroline Atkinson wrote.

She warned the move could prevent competition from small-scale actors.

The firm noted that YouTube has spent €53 million to create the software that recognises and removes copyright content.

Google also voiced criticism over the way the commission wanted to support news publishers.

The proposal looks a lot like previous ones that failed in Germany and Spain.

German lawmakers introduced an ancillary copyright for publishers in 2013, under which they could ask search engines and aggregators a licence fee for links to their articles if such links were accompanied by short snippets of the publishers’ content.

Google said it would continue to display results from these sites, but without any text and image snippets, so as to not violate the new law.

Risk of fiasco

Some websites saw traffic drop by up to 80 percent as a consequence. Eventually 90 percent of the news websites waived their rights to the US company.

Spain, on the other hand, made it mandatory to pay for snippets, which had Google close down its news service in the country.

According to Google’s own figures, that effort cost publishers a loss of 6 percent of traffic in average - but 14 percent for smaller publishers, which depended more heavily on the search engine for audience.

”Paying to display snippets is not a viable option for anyone”, Google’s Caroline Atkinson wrote.

The EU consumers lobby, Beuc, was also critical of plans to oblige online platforms to install software to detect and take down videos containing parts of copyrighted works. 

“Many people remix, produce and share videos and music on a daily basis. Because of unclear copyright rules they face the risk that their creations are taken down by the likes of YouTube and Facebook,” Beuc director general Monique Goyens wrote in an emailed statement. 

She said the proposal to make scanning for copyrighted content mandatory would lead to removal of allegedly unauthorised content. 

”This measure is legitimising the arbitrary removal of consumers’ own creative works. This is not how the web should work for online users,” Doyens said. 

The European Parliament’s rapporteur on copyright, Julia Reda, likewise poured criticism on the commission. She called the plans a ”disaster for the Internet”.

Backfire risk

”The commission clearly targeted Google,” said the German Pirate, who sits with the Green group, ”but it could end up hurting its competitors instead.”

”Publishers seem to have convinced [EU digital economy] commissioner Oettinger that Google makes a lot of money, and that they should have a part of that money,” Reda told this website.

The news industry’s troubles would not be solved with copyright law, she said.

Even the commission’s own impact assessment revealed that news publishers expected at best a 10 percent boost to their revenues.

Reda said that she feared people would simply stop linking to those stories protected by the new right.

”That would hurt European news business and media diversity,” the Pirate said.

She said German media eventually waived their rights for Google, “but they kept it for competitors”.

Despite the war of words, the proposal does not hammer out details of a deal to be concluded between Google and news publishers.

It creates a right for the publisher, who does not have to use it.

The ball now passes to the European Parliament and the Council, which will amend and vote on the proposals before they become law.

Opinion

Let's fix EU copyright law

Europe’s messy copyright legal framework doesn’t belong in the 21st century. A citizens' movement can help reform it.

Copyright file moves to pro-digital commissioner

Following a reshuffle, Estonian commissioner Ansip temporarily takes over the file from German Guenther Oettinger, who is seen as more friendly towards copyright holders.

EU fines Google €2.4 bn over online shopping

Brussels says Google has abused a near-monopoly position in online searches to favour its shopping service, but the US company said Brussels cannot prove the charges.

Opinion

Cybersecurity and defence for the future of Europe

Cybersecurity is a core element of Europe's strategy to become a global leader in digital technologies and a secure place for its citizens, write EU commissioner Jyrki Katainen and expert Jarno Limnell.

New EU fines will apply to 'old' data breaches

On 25 May, a new general data protection regulation will apply. Data breaches that happened before that date, but were covered up, can be fined under the new regulation.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Athens mayor wants direct access to EU migration fund
  2. Nordics could be first carbon-negative region in world
  3. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  4. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  5. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  6. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  7. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  8. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  3. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  7. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  8. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  9. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  10. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  11. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  12. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations