Proposed copyright rules: bad for small publishers, European consumers and online services

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. But the European Parliament’s
version of a new copyright directive -specifically Article 11 and
its recital 32- will have unintended consequences for smaller news
publishers, limit innovation in journalism and reduce choice for
European consumers. We urgently call on policymakers to fix this in
the final text of the directive.

Let us be clear on one thing: Article 11 seeks to protect
journalists and their work, and we agree with that goal. We care
deeply about supporting the broader news industry because
journalism is critical to the functioning of a free democracy. And
we built Google to provide everyone with equal access to
information.

However, Article 11 could change that principle and require online
services to strike commercial deals with publishers to show
hyperlinks and 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. And
this is not just about Google, it’s unlikely any business will be
able to license every single news publisher in the European Union,
especially given the very broad definition being proposed.

This would mostly benefit larger players. 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.

Because so much of the conversation in Brussels is driven by larger
publishing organizations, the small publishers who raise this
concern
are not heard. Why are large influential companies
constraining how new and small publishers operate? 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.

Not only might this harm individual news publishers, it also
seriously risks reducing consumers’ ability to discover and
access a diversity of views and opinions. Unlike people in other
parts of the world, European citizens may no longer find the most
relevant news across the web, but rather the news that online
services have been able to commercially license. We believe the
information we show should be based on quality, not on payment. And
we believe it’s not in the interest of European citizens to
change that.

Today we drive economic value to publishers by sending people to
news sites over 10 billion times a month. That free traffic has
enabled many smaller or emerging publishers to get discovered, grow
a business, and find success online. A
Deloitte study
found that each user visit was worth on average
between €0.04 and €0.08 to publishers. That means real business
value to European publishers, every year.

We recognize the news industry is undergoing substantial change
as publishers around the world transition to digital. We’ve been
working with EU institutions to develop workable solutions that
benefit journalists and publishers. We’ve invested in creating
tools to help publishers increase subscription revenue and enable
mobile sites to be much faster, so that they can grow their
audiences and their revenue. Thousands of news publishers use
Google advertising services where they retain 70% and more of the
revenue that’s generated.

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.

Source: FS – Social Media Blogs 2
Proposed copyright rules: bad for small publishers, European consumers and online services