Updating copyright rules for news: There’s a better way

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

The EU's changes to copyright law threaten diversity in the bloc's publishing market, argues Google's Richard Gingras. [Analytics Vidhya]

The EU Copyright directive should avoid making reforms that takes away publishers’ choices about how to distribute and make money with their content online, writes Richard Gingras.

Richard Gingras is the Vice President of News at Google.

The European Publishers Council uses strong language in their op-ed published in EURACTIV when it describes our position on Europe’s copyright reform.

We do not oppose the principle that news publishers’ content should be protected. Copyright rules give news publishers rights over how their work is used. Europe is updating these rules for this digital age, and that’s a move Google supports.

We fully support protecting high-quality journalism. But we are concerned about the potential unintended consequences of certain wordings which lock all publishers – big and small – into the same business model and could impact access to quality news and information.

Loopholes the size of a double-decker bus would make a mockery of the Copyright Reform

Lawmakers must ensure that the new EU copyright directive protects press publishers and their right to assert their copyright in the digital age, argues Christian van Thillo.

Because so much of the conversation in Brussels is driven by larger publishing organisations like EPC, the small publishers who raise this concern are not heard. Particularly at a time when news business models continue to evolve, new, small, and innovative publishers need flexibility. 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.

The European Parliament’s version requires online services to strike commercial deals with publishers to show short snippets of news. This means that search engines, news aggregators, apps, and platforms would have to put commercial licences in place, and make decisions about which content to include on the basis of those licensing agreements and which to leave out.

Effectively, companies like Google will be put in the position of picking winners and losers. Online services, some of which generate no revenue (for instance, Google News) would have to make choices about which publishers they’d do deals with. Presently, more than 80,000 news publishers around the world can show up in Google News, but Article 11 would sharply reduce that number.

This would mostly benefit the larger players EPC represents. One analysis has forecast that in Germany, small publishers would receive less than 1% of the revenue generated by a so-called ancillary copyright – whereas the largest publishing group alone would receive 64%. Smaller newsrooms and overall online news diversity will be impacted as a result.

EPC is wrong when they assert that we outright oppose this copyright reform. But the current definitions being discussed are too broad, and threaten to take away publishers’ choices about how to distribute and make money with their content online. We support a final text that gives publishers the choice about how their content can be found online.

It’s also incorrect to say that our business model is built on the back of publishers’ content, and that we refuse to fairly compensate them. Google News does not carry ads and does not make money, but that doesn’t mean we deliver no value to publishers. Every month we send people to news sites more than 10 billion times, and a Deloitte study found that each visit is worth on average between €0.04 and €0.08. Last year we paid more than €11 billion to publishers that use Google’s ad technology on their sites. And we are continuously investing in creating tools to help them increase subscription revenue and reach their audiences (for instance, by speeding up their mobile sites), thereby helping them grow.

There is a way to avoid the unintended consequences of Article 11. 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. Publishers – big and small – should continue to be able to make their own choices about how their content can be discovered and how they want to make money with that content.

The exact language of the new rules is being determined in the next few weeks. Now is not the time to stifle innovation in news or limit access to quality journalism.

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