Google News Germany

There’s a new fight brewing between the news media and Google.

The News Media Alliance, a trade association that includes the likes of Hearst, Dow Jones and the New York Times, along with thousands of other news publishers, is pushing back hard against Google’s “lobbying” against proposed changes to copyright laws in the European Union aimed at getting some protective copyright powers in the hands of publishers that now largely distribute their content over the Internet.

NMA said Google is basically using “scare tactics in order to sway public opinion” — it’s claiming online content will become limited if it has to pay for any content it hosts, that traffic will be reduced mainly for smaller publishers — when what’s at issue is “securing a basic right for publishers to protect their original content.”

Specifically, its being proposed that the EU Copyright Directive enacted in 2001 be expanded to give publishers of all sorts copyright power over “online uses of their press publications by information society service providers.” So, platforms like Google and Facebook, which thrive on traffic (and revenue from ad sales based on traffic) generated by content they do not create, would be open to legal liability if they don’t have some kind of authorization to use the content.  

Google is positioning the possible changes, set to be enacted this year, 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’s even dubbed its campaign against the updated directive “Together for Copyright” with a theme of an open Internet being a better Internet, akin to its corporate mission statement.

“Imagine if you couldn’t watch the videos you love,” Google wrote, “Imagine if you couldn’t find your favorite local news or special interest content.”

“The European Parliament’s proposed version of 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,” it added.

Meanwhile, NMA argued that the proposal will “actually increase the publishers’ options when making decisions on how to make their content available online, and they would not be required to charge for their content.”

Google went on to note 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 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, driven almost entirely by advertising based on traffic, each quarter.  

Needless to say, NMA isn’t having the company’s argument.

“Currently, online platforms such as Google and other corporate businesses can use — and make money from — publishers’ online news content every day, paying the publishers nothing,” NMA wrote. “For obvious reasons, Google would prefer to keep the status quo and go on using publishers’ content for free, but this is not a fair and equitable arrangement for news publishers, many of whom are already struggling with decreased revenues from shifting preferences away from print and advertisers electing to give their ad dollars to the platforms.

“Without fair compensation for commercial use of news content, the financial futures of free and independent news organizations and journalists are at risk,” the NMA continued. “Google asks you to imagine if you couldn’t find your favorite local news or special interest content. Supporting a strong publishers’ right is the best way to ensure you can continue to find it.”

For More, See:

Media People: Richard Gingras of Google News

What to Watch: Regulation of Big Tech

Instagram Swipe ‘Test’: Sneak Peak or One Off?

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