[A2k] EU targets Google in Copyright Reform - the euobserver
susan.isiko.strba at bluewin.ch
susan.isiko.strba at bluewin.ch
Thu Sep 15 02:22:43 PDT 2016
By Aleksandra Eriksson
BRUSSELS, Today, 09:29
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
Similar schemes backfired in Germany and Spain (Photo: Alessio
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
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
”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”.
”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
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
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.
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