Europe plans to give media companies the power to demand payment from search engines like Google when snippets of their content are republished.
The European Commission is is working on a significant overhaul of copyright law that aims to help level the playing field between news outlets and tech giants like Google and Facebook, The Financial Times reported.
But the move threatens to further heighten tensions between the European authorities and Silicon Valley companies, which are locked in disputes on the continent over everything from tax to competition law.
“If the investments and contribution of publishers increase the value of publications but are not compensated by sufficient revenues, the sustainability of publishing industries in the EU may be at stake with the risk of further negative consequences on media pluralism, democratic debate and quality of information,” the draft proposals say.
The move could see media companies begin to charge Google for showing snippets of their articles in its Google News feature, a powerful source of traffic for the companies. But it’s unclear what Google’s response would be: In Spain, after a similar measure was introduced, it removed the feature in the country — sparking a drop in traffic of up to 14% for some publications.
Google declined to comment.
Under the new proposals, news sites would not have to charge for use of their content if they didn’t want to. And they already have the power to opt out of being added to search engines, by adding a simple “robot.txt” file to their sites.
Many media organisations are struggling financially in the switch to digital and online-only formats, and are trapped in a strange love-hate relationship with the likes of Facebook and Google: They are reliant on these big tech portals for most of their traffic (and Google’s DoubleClick ad platform is used by the majority of publishers so they can generate ad revenue on their websites), but at the same time, are directly competing with them for advertising spend.
One new report estimated that Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms will cost UK newspapers £500 million by 2026.
The relationship between the European Union and American tech companies is increasingly strained. Apple might soon be hit with a $19 billion tax bill by Europe — news that the Obama administration has reacted furiously to, warning on repercussions if it goes ahead.
Here’s the full draft proposal:
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