Push Resumes For An EU Google Tax, With The Bulgarian Government Leading The Way

from the bad-ideas-never-die dept

When an idea fails, legislators resurrect it. The problem must not be with the idea, they reason. It must be with the implementation. So it goes in Europe, where the Bulgarian government is trying to push an idea that has demonstrably failed elsewhere on the continent.

Should the EU introduce an extra copyright for news sites, restricting how we can share news online? The controversy around this plan continues to brew – this time in the Council, where the member state governments are trying to find a consensus.


The Bulgarian Council Presidency is pushing what it calls a new compromise, instead of the choice of two options that their Estonian predecessors offered.

But upon closer investigation, the “compromise” looks mighty familiar: With exceptions for very short snippets and non-commercial use by individuals, as well as a shorter protection term than the Commission wanted, it looks much like the current German “ancillary copyright”, which almost all experts agree has been an abject failure.

The failure of snippet taxes/Google taxes is well documented, but never seems to deter further legislative efforts in the same direction. Google reacted to the initiative by dropping snippets from German news agencies, a move that produced a noticeable drop in traffic. German publishers called it “blackmail,” but the simplest way to comply with bad laws is to opt out. Similar things happened in Spain with its snippet tax. Google nuked its local Google News service, resulting in affected publishers demanding the government force Google to re-open the service and start sending them traffic/money.

This push in the EU Commission for a snippet tax deliberately ignores research showing link taxes don’t work, harm publishers, and are opposed by many of the journalists who would supposedly benefit from it. This is more than cherry-picking facts to support a Google tax. Pirate Party EU Parliament member Julia Reda (who wrote the post quoted above) previously uncovered reports the Commission tried to bury, including one that showed news aggregation services like Google News were a net benefit for listed publications.

At this point, it looks as though some form of snippet tax will eventually become EU law. Only half of the member countries oppose snippet taxes, and only a few of those are actively fighting the proposal. If it does become law, it won’t work out the way publishers believe it will. Instead, it will harm smaller publishers and smaller aggregators, resulting in a consolidation of power for the largest publishers and platforms. The EU has no leverage in this battle. Google won’t hang around for long if the situation is unprofitable and publishers will have to settle for taxing Yahoo, Bing, etc. for whatever traffic these search engines manage to send their way.

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Comments on “Push Resumes For An EU Google Tax, With The Bulgarian Government Leading The Way”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Define 'work'

If it does become law, it won’t work out the way publishers believe it will.

If you assume they’re just making a cash-grab, then no. On the other hand…

Instead, it will harm smaller publishers and smaller aggregators, resulting in a consolidation of power for the largest publishers and platforms.

From the perspective of the larger publishers who are currently losing eyes and attention(and money, though not as much as they seem to think they’d get) to the alternatives that looks pretty effective to me.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Define 'work'

Oh not the only one I imagine, they probably see it as a win-win either way. Either Google pays them for snippets, or Google does in the EU what they’ve done elsewhere and the smaller, competing services get hammered as a result. From that perspective either way is a win for them.

What I hope happens, barring the ideal of having the idea die a horrible death, is that they botch the wording such that Google and other companies can easily just de-list anyone who doesn’t give them permission to include links/snippets and waive any fees(if only there was some easy way to do that, some robotic form of coding they could use…), such that anyone who gets greedy quickly discovers that rather than having a leg up over the competition, they’ve instead shot themselves right in the foot and are worse off.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s probably both. The publishers can’t admit to their shareholders that it’s their poor work & planning that have led to falling revenue, so they blame Google. Legislators are easily led by the lies and/or have a platform they want to grandstand from that ties in nicely. Since the trend is for corporations not to look far past this quarter’s growth and for politicians to not look past the next election cycle,. they’ll collude without really thinking about the long term consequences of what they are suggesting. Even if they both understand them, which is often not the case.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

and they know it because they do not use robots.txt to stop the search engines using snippets in search results.

And that little tidbit right there absolutely demolishes the ‘The big bad Google is unfairly stealing our profits!’ whining they engage in.

They can stop Google from linking to them with a trivial amount of work, in fact as I understand it the system even allows them to keep being listed under Google’s main search and not show up in Google News, yet for all that wailing and gnashing of teeth they do not do so, with the obvious explanation being that they want to show up on the service, they just want to be paid too.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

  • seeing as how newspapers exist primarily to write about events they didn’t create.

Hmm – change didn’t to don’t normally and you’ll be better here. Seem to remember NBC and CBS News doing a bit of creative fiction over the years. 😉

Not that I’m saying ABC or anyone else doesn’t, but the biggest works of fiction I can remember off-hand were those two.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

It’s telling that in just a couple of posts the conversation has suddenly leapt from being about Bulgarian publishers perhaps not creating all the content they report upon (as per the OP) to a bunch of dickheads whining about which American TV news station they distrust the most.

American partisan idiots really are killing any reasonable discourse, even on subjects that have sod all to do with US politics.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Even there, that’s not writing about events that they created; it’s writing about events that didn’t happen.

Newspapers writing about events that they created would be the written equivalent of (say) “Next, on CNN: CNN is attempting to buy out ABC. We’ll bring you the latest details.”. The news organization (or at least its parent company) created the event, and now it is covering that event.

Or perhaps a journalist or editor inciting a riot, and then reporting on that riot, might also qualify. It’s a bit more of a remove, but I think still close enough to fit.

(Note that I’m making these hypothetical stories up entirely out of whole cloth! Any resemblance to real-world events is entirely coincidental; I just haven’t done any checking.)

Anonymous Coward says:

So, who in the Bulgarian govt has accepted a bribe to try to get this failed object back into the frame? You can bet your ass tgat it isnt being done for free! Next, why fo any of the publishers etc think that doing this is going to be of such brnefit to tgem ehen sctually, what tgey dhould ve doing is discovering a bd reporting on news items that are of interest to as many people/outlets as possible. This ridiculous attitude of ‘we are entitled to do fuck sll, ever, but still be paid a fortune for it’ all stems back to stupid US judges bending over and grabbing ankles for Hollywood and the other entertainment industries! Publishers are just trying to get yet another free ride by jumping on the same band wagon! Lets hope this, like other attempts at the same, falls flat, the instigator is exposed for being yet another corrupt official and news continues to be reported as it should, as free news!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I fully support this idea, as long as every publisher who serves up malware, badware, insane tracking tech has to pay users affected by their shitty ad decisions.

Their drop in viewers isn’t so much Google, as it is they have fallen into the gatekeeper model of we always made money & if we aren’t it is someone elses fault. We haven’t done things that annoy & attack our users, those are the fault of the ad networks we give space to.

They can block being indexed, but none of them seem to.
It seems they get a benefit, but not enough of a benefit to suit them.

It reminds me of the RIAA saying how awesome it was that Spotify was profitable and they were going to raise their cut to 98% of the income. (No it wasn’t this bad, but I made a snarky comment at the time that did well).

We want to cut the golden goose open so we can get the eggs faster, ignoring that cutting the goose open means no more golden eggs.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I fully support this idea, as long as every publisher who serves up malware, badware, insane tracking tech has to pay users affected by their shitty ad decisions.

Eh, that would be a start, but if someone providing you a benefit can be charged for the privilege, I’d say it only fair that they pay google for the traffic it sends them. They are clearly benefiting from the traffic(just listen to the whining when they lost it in other countries), so it seems only right that they pay for the privilege of being on google’s service/site.

Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Re: Re: How to convince EU regulators of Google's value [Was Re:

I’d say it only fair that they pay google for the traffic >it sends them.

EU regulators could expropriate Google’s newsreader function and convert it into a regulated public monopoly. At that point, the social justice of charging media sites for links and traffic would suddenly become obvious.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Why don't they just use AI?

“So why don’t Google, Yahoo, and Bing <snort> just use AI to generate the snippets?”

Because that won’t get around the problem. The issue is that the snippets exist, not how they’re generated. In fact, if snippets were rewritten by AI that would put Google in actual trouble rather than the silly made up stuff they face now.

I also live in Spain, and it’s been a shame that smaller companies had to suffer because their large competitors are idiots. But, for Google, it’s easier just top not provide the service rather than fight an endless battle with people who are ultimately only after some free money. For their customers, they either choose a foreign source or get their news from Facebook, Twitter, etc. instead.

ECA (profile) says:


Lets ask a strange idea..

The INTERNET is an undiscovered land.
Its open, free, SPREAD WIDE across the world..

Do WE get to make the laws?
Will we impede the input/output of this land??
Add Tariffs? Taxes to products created and sent from this land??
WHO is in charge of this land?(why do they need one)
It sounds like the Americas, BEFORE Those other people followed and made things complicated..Banks, corporatism, Capitalism…

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Get it over with

I cannot figure why governments bother pussyfooting around with Google. Get on with it. Confiscate their stock, confiscate all their money, jail their management, burn down their infrastructure, distribute all the money to other companies, and get it done with.

Stop pretending that isn’t what they really, really want to do.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Get it over with

If you kill a sheep, you get the meat and wool, but only once. If you only shear it though, you don’t get the meat, but you can get the wool over, and over, and over again.

While it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if more than a few people would try what you suggest if they thought it would work, it would only get them so much before the company pulled all possible assets out of their reach, not to mention causing a positive exodus of other companies who would flee before it could happen to them.

By instead slipping in various ‘taxes’ however they can get a steady stream of unearned income and continue to keep it for a good while.

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