Google News Germany

Internet news in Europe might look a lot different in two years with European Parliament’s approval of strict online copyright rules.

In a 348-274 vote, members of Parliament passed an update to copyright law for the European Union, which is aimed largely at the use and proliferation of news and other creator content by Google and Facebook, two platforms which subsist on the surfacing of content created by others. With the new rules, more power over content will be given to publishers as platforms will need to gain some kind of authorization to use content.

“The directive will improve the position of creators in their negotiations with big platforms which largely benefit from their content,” the European Commission wrote in a statement. “Writers, journalists, singers, musicians and actors will find it easier to negotiate better deals with their publishers or producers.”

The rules specify that “the use of existing works for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature as well as parody are explicitly allowed,” meaning things like memes are still wide open for use.

Before the new copyright directive was proposed about two years ago, the EU found that almost 60 percent of Internet users access news and press articles through social media, news aggregators or search engines. About half of those users were also found to only read extracts or summaries of articles and stories provided by these platforms with no click-through to the web site or service that created the content.

The Commission said the directive “will strengthen our creative industries” and bring “tangible benefits to citizens and all creative sectors.”

David Chavern, president and ceo of The News Media Alliance, a trade association that has strongly backed the EU copyright change and includes thousands of media companies like Hearst, Dow Jones and the New York Times, called the passage “a great victory for news publishers.”

“For the first time in Europe, news publishers can now protect their online content through the ability to ask the big tech companies — who up until now have not been stopped from exploiting out content every day — for fair compensation,” Chavern added.

While Parliament has adopted the directive, it will not become law immediately, giving publishers and platforms in Europe some time to adjust. It still needs to be officially endorsed by the Council of the European Union, expected in the coming weeks, and then members of the EU will have two years to work the rules into their local legislation.

Google has been vocal in its opposition to the new rules, which update legislation first passed in 2001, when the company was three years old and Facebook and Twitter didn’t yet exist.

Early this year, the company characterized the EU directive as little more than an attempt by the EU to “limit the variety of content” it — and its affiliate YouTube — feature, which would in turn adversely affect consumers and content creators. It added that the legislation “would require search services to put licenses in place that may force them to start choosing which content to include and which to exclude.”

Google went on to argue that 35 million YouTube channels in the EU “may be affected” by the rule change and that more than 80,000 news publishers around the world get traffic through its search engine, which it said equals about 10 billion visits a month resulting in a rough average of 4 cents to 8 cents per visit.

Google’s math stopped there, but taking the low end of the average, that’s equal to about 400 million euros. Split that evenly between 80,000 news publishers and they each get roughly 5,000 euros for the millions of visits they receive every month. Meanwhile, Google is pulling tens of billion of dollars in revenue each quarter, driven almost entirely by advertising based on traffic from users looking for content.

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