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.