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11/12/2016

Copyright reform: Oettinger open to Spanish ‘Google tax’ model

Digital

Copyright reform: Oettinger open to Spanish ‘Google tax’ model

EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger has signaled serveral times that he's in favour of an EU 'Google tax'.

[European Parliament]

EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that he prefers Spain’s controversial ancillary copyright law on Tuesday (14 July), sometimes nicknamed a ‘Google tax’, to the German model.

Oettinger has praised ancillary copyright laws several times in recent months, as the European Commission gets ready to propose EU copyright legislation this fall. He was speaking yesterday at a meeting of the European Parliament’s culture committee.

Asked about the prospect of a European ancillary copyright law, Oettinger replied: “I’m open to it.”

Ancillary copyright laws force internet search engines to pay fees to news publishers when they post snippets from articles in search results.

“In Spain, the development and the awareness process seem to be further along than in Germany. We’re assessing that and will integrate it into our copyright proposal,” Oettinger said.

“Whether we have a European ancillary copyright law or not? I think it’s possible and imaginable but I’m not committed to it.”

But neither the Spanish nor the German law turned out the way their supporters intended.

Spain introduced an ancillary copyright law for press publishers last year. As a response, Google News stopped operating there in December.

In Germany, publishers granted a license to Google exempting it from the law there after suffering a major drop in page view numbers with the copyright law in effect.

German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda this week called into question whether the German law can still be applied since the German government did not notify the European Commission when it went into effect, violating a 1998 directive on information society services.

>>Read: Copyright: MEPs ditch plans for Google Tax, tourist photo ban

Oettinger has previously emphasised his commitment to setting up a European ancillary copyright. At a discussion in Brussels last month, he said, “It’s my personal ambition to create a modern European ancillary copyright law for press publishers by the end of 2016.”

Last week, MEPs signalled their resistance to a law that would target search engines to compensate publishers if they want to show news in their results.

In a non-binding vote on 9 July, the European Parliament rejected an amendment to Julia Reda’s copyright report that called for measures to ensure media diversity.

Reda called that amendment from German MEP Angelika Niebler (European People’s Party) a front for an EU ancillary copyright law.

>>Read: Getting a telecoms deal: Harder than agreeing on Greece?

Oettinger was also hit with criticism for striking a deal on the telecoms single market legislation, set to be approved by Parliament and Council this Fall.

Zero rating

Last Wednesday (8 July), the European Commission and Council agreed on a draft of the legislation on net neutrality and roaming fees. The new draft doesn’t address the issue of zero rating, which allows internet providers to offer services like Facebook or Skype at no extra cost. Zero rating is already illegal in Slovenia and the Netherlands.

German MEP Petra Kammerevert (S&D) said allowing that practice would distort competition between internet providers.

“I can already see when it comes to film and music that this kind of content falls under zero rating and when it comes to small providers, the new ones on the market are not going to be able to offer this content. When it comes to competition law that can’t be good,” Kammerevert said.

Oettinger said in response that he’d explain the legislation in detail at a meeting with the Luxembourgish Council Presidency in September or October.

Background

On 8 July, the European Commission, Parliament and Council agreed on a draft regulation on the digital single market.

Under the agreement, roaming charges for passing international mobile phone calls within Europe will be dropped starting on 15 June 2017. A transition phase will start next April, when charges will see a first downwards pivot. Call fees will then be capped at €0.05 per minute, an SMS at €0.02 and data use at €0.05 per megabyte.

Negotiators told EurActiv that under this deal, telecoms could still recoup fees lost to the roaming drop-off with a cost relief provision that would let them add charges under a different name.

The agreement also includes “strong net neutrality rules protecting the right of every European to access Internet content, without discrimination.”

The new draft doesn't address the issue of zero rating, which allows internet providers to offer services like Facebook or Skype at no extra cost. Zero rating is already illegal in Slovenia and the Netherlands.

>> Read: Getting a telecoms deal: Harder than agreeing on Greece?

Further Reading

European Commisison