Google has launched a fresh attack on a new European copyright directive, describing it as set to “harm smaller news publishers” and reduce consumers access to diverse news sources.
Google’s Head of News Richard Gingras called on European lawmakers to change the language in the text so it no longer contains a link tax requirement for published content online.
The Link Tax is a term given to Article 11 of the proposed European Copyright Directive, which aims to tackle unfair use of published content taken from press and news websites. If it is passed, then whenever a websites uses a link and or a short quotation from a news article, they would have to pay the publisher of this article a fee.
After an amendment by German MEP Axel Voss, it now says that publishers have “an inalienable right to obtain a fair and proportionate remuneration for such uses.”
This means that news organisations can no longer give free consent to the use of their content. A platform that links with a short snippet of text as an explainer automatically will owe the publisher. (Spain brought in a similar law which resulted in Google shutting down Google News in Spain.)
In his editorial Richard Gingras highlights research done by golem.de an IT news publication that found publishers would receive less than 1 percent of the revenue created by ancillary copyright: whereas the largest publishing group alone would receive 64 percent. Smaller newsrooms and overall online news diversity will be impacted as a result,” Gingras notes.
He comments that currently over 80,000 news publishers from across the globe will show up in Goolge News, but he believes that Article 11 will ‘sharply’ reduce that figure.
Googles stance is that the proposed directive will limit the range of content available to users and will punish smaller publications unfairly.
“The proposed rules will undoubtedly hurt diversity of voices, with large publishers setting business models for the whole industry. This will not benefit all equally.”
Gingras also says that there is a way out of this situation: “The copyright directive should give all publishers the right to control their own business models and destiny by giving them the choice to waive the need for a commercial license for their content.”
Gingras’s editorial is part of a sustained attack by Google on the current form of the EU copyright directive. YouTube, which was bought by Google in 2006, has been highlighted its concerns over the Directive.
Regular uses of YouTube will have seen sponsored advertisement from YouTube with hashtag #Saveyourinternet calling on users to ‘make their voice heard’ and protest the proposed EU directive.
Earlier this month YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote an editorial for the Financial Times using similar language as Gingras stating that the EU Directive will: “Create unintended consequences that will have a profound impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.”
Article 13 deals with the European Commission’s upload filter proposal and sees greater copyright regulation onuses put on websites that facilitate any type of content upload from its users. This means that websites need to have licensing agreements with content creators if they are to have it on their site.
However, it would be nearly impossible to get a licences from every right holder individually and there is currently no catch all organisation that represents all the worlds’ copyrighted content. The EU proposal itself puts forward its solution which is ‘the use of effective content recognition technologies,’ this amounts to an upload filtering system that scans for copyrighted content.
Susan Wojcicki CEO of YouTube highlighted the music video Despacito which currently has over 5.5 billion views. The music video contains multiple copyrights ranging from publishing to sound recording rights.
While she notes that YouTube has agreements with numerous entities to license and remunerate creators and copyright holders, some of the rights holders involved are still unknown. Wojcicki states that as the legislation currently stands: “That uncertainty means we might have to block videos like this to avoid liability under article 13.”
“Multiply that risk with the scale of YouTube, where more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and the potential liabilities could be so large that no company could take on such a financial risk,” she notes.
The Copyright Directive has been approved by the EU as it stand and is currently in the Trilogue discussion stage which is expected to conclude in January.