Leaked EU Copyright Proposal A Complete Mess: Want To Tax Google To Prop Up Failing Publishers

from the that's-not-the-role-of-copyright dept

Well, here we go again with the bad EU copyright proposals. Just a few days ago, Mozilla actually launched a petition to call on the EU to update its copyright laws for the 21st century, to make it "so we can tinker, create, share, and learn on the internet." Apparently the EU's answer to this is "Fuck You!"

According to a leaked draft of the EU Commission's plan to "modernize" copyright, the plan really seems focused on coming up with new ways to tax successful internet companies, like Google, to prop up other companies and industries that have failed to adapt. Apparently, the EU Commission thinks that copyright should be a tool to punish innovation and to reward those who have refused to innovate.

The leaked draft talks repeatedly about this silly idea of a "value gap." Just a few weeks ago we discussed why the "value gap" is a misleading talking point. It's being used by companies that didn't innovate to try to guarantee a business model, with that model being "have the government force successful companies to subsidize us, because we didn't adapt to the current market." And this draft is full of that kind of thinking.

The draft also continues to weigh "the impact" of various proposals on different stake holders. For example, it notes whether different proposals will have a "positive, neutral, or negative" impact on rightsholders, internet services, consumers and "fundamental rights." While it's nice that they include the "fundamental rights" (and the public -- who, it should be noted, are more than just "consumers") it feels like they're trying to set up proposals again that are sort of "balancing" all of these interests, rather than finding the one that maximizes overall utility. In fact, it's quite troubling that they seem to think that anything that directly expands copyright automatically benefits "rightsholders." We've seen how that's not true at all. Greater freedom to remix, reuse and build on the works of others allow everyday people to become creators themselves more easily. And saddling internet platforms also harms many, many content creators who are only able to create, publicize, distribute, connect and monetize because of these new platforms. But the draft doesn't seem to take much of that into account -- or sort of hand-waves it away.

Even the way the draft describes "problems" show that it's biased at looking for ways to prop up old industries:
In particular intervention at EU level is expected, because of its scale, to strengthen publishers bargaining powers in a more effective way than it has happened under national measures such as the "ancillary rights" adopted in DE and ES, where major online service providers either closed down their news aggregation services (ES) or concluded free licences for the use of publishers' content (DE) which did not generate any remuneration for publishers so far. Moreover the related right granted to press publishers under this option would be different from the ES law insofar as it would be an exclusive right and not an unwaivable compensation: this would leave news publishers a greater margin for manoeuvre to negotiate different types of agreements with service providers and is therefore expected to be more effective for them in the long run (notably as it will allow press publishers to develop new business models in a flexible way).
Basically, so much is looking at how can we prop up newspaper businesses by basically forcing Google to pay them to link to them. Even more ridiculously, the report says that basically pushing Google to pay to link to news will "benefit consumers" because it will mean more "high quality" news. That seems like a dubious assumption.
Consumers reap considerable benefits from news aggregators and social media news providers. At the same time they also benefit from high quality newspaper content feeding these channels of consumption. By fostering the production of high quality news content, this option is expected to have a positive impact on consumers. Better market conditions for the news publishing industry could give rise to the development of innovative offers for the digital distribution of news content, with larger catalogues and more choice. Digital subscription of newspapers and magazines are expected to be further developed, which will be particularly beneficial to consumers given the decline of print products.
That seems like the EU Commission is only thinking a single step out, and not any further about how business models may develop. Doing this will also lock in Google as the dominant player and not allow newer, better, more innovative startups to enter the market without first having to raise significant amounts of capital. The report notes that consumer groups disagree with the assumption that consumers will benefit under such a plan, but the entirety of the Commissions reason for this is "well, this is different from the Spanish law that made Google News shut down."

All in all, this looks like (unfortunately typical for Europe) plan written by bureaucrats looking to basically minimize the number of people who are upset, rather than creating the best actual overall plan. As a result, the proposals look to be a mess, that will almost certainly harm innovation and creativity in Europe.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 3:35am

    The new publisher business model appears to be to turn into Google into their collection agency.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously, 29 Aug 2016 @ 4:03am

      Re:

      Except, they cannot force `compelled speech' onto Google (see the Spain example).
      The new publisher `business model' more likely appears to prepare for blaming Google at their eventual demise.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 4:31am

    Oh for fuck sake... I live in the EU, and would describe myself as pro EU (as an idea, probably not current execution) but GOD they to not make it easy for me. A small part of me kind of hope this goes through and google/facebook choose the nuclear option with an explanation why they shut it all down. Might be a good way to trigger serious debate about the abysmal state of copyright in this day in age.

    It is really important to keep a healthy press alive, but this is not the way...

    As a sidenote, what do they mean with bargain power? Newssite have none at all. The choice they have is let google link, or demand pay and watch them stop doing it, killing traffic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 5:00am

    Strange, I don't recall any stories out of Europe where Town Cryers were forced to pay shop owners when they directed customers to them in the middle ages.

    "Google must pay us for all the bandwidth THEIR customers are sucking out of our websites!!!!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    annonymouse, 29 Aug 2016 @ 5:31am

    So let's start publishing the names of the people who are drafting this and their corporate sponsors. The EU may be compromised but certain members would be more than happy to pillory those idiots and their sponsors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 6:10am

    Apparently, the EU Commission thinks that copyright should be a tool to punish innovation and to reward those who have refused to innovate.
    Isn't the EU right about this? That seems to be exactly what copyright is for.

    Hasn't the business model of copyright owning gatekeepers always been to do nothing, keeping the money rolling in from copyright, while giving the talented people little to nothing? Keep the legislative machine greased with money. Erect as many troll gates as possible. Collect fees and royalties on things one has no actual copyright ownership of. Suppress any innovation that might be perceived as a threat -- even if it actually turns out to be the next big money stream for the copyright owners. Use copyright to censor anything unfavorable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 6:18am

    Who wants to bet that after the proposal is made to Google where the commission insists that Google will have to foot everyone's bill in order to continue doing business, should Google opt to "do without" and leave, the usual trolls will whine that Google isn't allowed to leave?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 6:20am

    This proposal is strictly written for the publishers. The fact that it 'leaked' and wasn't publicly released shows how anti-public it's intended to be, they know the public wouldn't approve of this. The government should serve the public and only the public.

    "did not generate any remuneration for publishers so far."

    Since when should it be the government's job to guarantee or maximize publisher profits. If an aggregator chooses to only link to freely available content and one publisher doesn't like that he can opt out. No one is forcing them to have their content linked to. Why are the profit margins of publishers of such concern to the government?


    "Digital subscription of newspapers and magazines are expected to be further developed, which will be particularly beneficial to consumers given the decline of print products. "

    and what does the decline of paper and print products have to do with the alleged benefits of digital subscriptions and newspapers. Why can't the government let consumers better choose for themselves what they want to do instead of passing laws intended to choose for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 6:57am

      Re:

      "did not generate any remuneration for publishers so far."

      Funny then that they do use robots.txt to delist themselves from Google. They could even try to get Google to pay them for the privilege of listing their site and using snippets. They know what the impact on their profits of being delisted is, and how much Google actually values their content as opposed to the value of the custom they drive their way, hence the attempts to get a Google tax passed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 7:05am

      Re:

      probably depends on much of a bribe they get. the higher the publisher profits the higher the payoff.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lisboeta, 29 Aug 2016 @ 6:45am

    I'm rather sceptical about that claim of "high quality newspaper content". I think online sources (not all of them, of course!) nowadays provide the higher quality content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 6:50am

    Damned if they do...

    They tried to adapt but it extended to filing for patents with just adding -on the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 7:01am

    In particular intervention at EU level is expected, because of its scale, to strengthen publishers bargaining powers in a more effective way

    ...and there's the problem right there. The goal of copyright is (or originally was, at least) explicitly to keep publishers in check and suppress their abusive behavior. Any copyright law designed to aid and strengthen publishers (see also: the DMCA) should be looked upon with horror and revulsion by anyone aware of the historical context.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 7:26am

      Re:

      no, the problem is everyone's incessant nagging for a government to save them from themselves.

      Instead we build governments that just give the people we are asking to be saved from more power and money.

      Copyright is just ONE of the many RESULTS of that. How many governments of history must fall for humanity to see this? How many civilians, peasants, and slaves must suffer and die before they realize that a government big enough to save them from everything is big enough to take from them EVERYTHING!

      You are calling the symptom a problem, instead of the root cause.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 8:32am

        Re: Re:

        You must be deluded to think human society can function without governance.

        There's a pretty large portion of society that can barely take care of itself (elderly, disabled, etc.). Those would fall first.

        At best we'd end up under a form of modern feudalism. Only much more savage than its medieval counterpart.

        Sure, you and I have morals but there's a lot of Shkrelis and Bresches out there. Enough to make any form of anarchy a no-go.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 29 Aug 2016 @ 8:04am

    This is why we can't have nice things.

    Shakespeare let some rabble-rouser's follower state: "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" and I am pretty sure that many in the peanut galleries would have been delighted with the thought.

    Anything successful must be dragged down and leeched to failure.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 10:36am

      Re: This is why we can't have nice things.

      We don't need to KILL them, but they do need much more effective regulation. The Bar just doesn't cut it these days. That and highly regulate the number practicing at any one time. The US alone graduates and licenses more lawyers than there is work for, and that's precisely why we see the shenanigans we do, like Prenda. Lawyers who would otherwise be unemployed game the system to earn a living. The oversaturation of lawyers is the root cause of most modern ails - look close enough at any problem and you'll find a passel of lawyers trying to make a buck (or a million).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard M (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 8:25am

    Seems Very Backwards

    So Google sends traffic to the news sites which allow those sites to make more money and now they want Google to pay for the privileged of sending that traffic to them?

    Seriously??

    The news sites should be paying Google...

    This will not happen, the first thing Google will do is delist the sites and when their traffic does a nose dive they will be screaming to get the law overturned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 10:53am

      Re: Seems Very Backwards

      "This will not happen, the first thing Google will do is delist the sites and when their traffic does a nose dive they will be screaming to get the law overturned."

      From what we saw over the past years that's a no. Google removes them, and offers to add them again if they sign a contract not to charge Google. The newspapers sign it and then sue Google for illegal business practices based on abuse of monopoly.

      iirc they wanted something like 4% of Googles global revenue and those were just German newspapers.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 8:48am

    Leave Europe to European companies

    And have Google leave the continent completely. It's the protectionism they cry for. ...at least until they get it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    roebling (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 10:03am

    Politicians sell "protection"

    Politics runs on donations and no one donates except for protection.

    Old-tech publishers donate to get protection from new-tech publishers. New-tech publishers donate to be allowed to continue their business.

    Savvy politicians thrive from such rivalries. They conspire with other politicians to heighten awareness and apprehension among opposing industries by alternately promoting one side over the other.

    To understand populist politics think, "professional wrestling."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 10:36am

    "In fact, it's quite troubling that they seem to think that anything that directly expands copyright automatically benefits "rightsholders."

    Thats because you are conflating rightsholders and creators.. The rightsholders they are talking about are their customers.. The ones that don't create anything, but hold the rights to stuff made in the past. Things that help creators don't help them and things that help creators publish their own works *really* don't help them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 11:02am

    the only reason the EU Commission exists is to back any 'Entertainment Organisation', doing whatever it can to hinder the public from getting anything even when the rights have expired. the strange thing is, where did this body come from? who proposed and elected it? it isn't an Official Organisation and the members were not elected, certainly not by the people, at any rate! it is a self appointed group, paid for, i suspect, by certain industries mainly from Hollywood and other parts of the USA. the only thing that should happen to it is it should be totally ignored at best and at worst investigated for being a bias organisation that is being used, as lobbyists are, to influence laws that benefit industries and businesses while being contrary to the public good

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 12:41pm

    We'll call if the 'Make Google Pay Us' act of 2016

    Moreover the related right granted to press publishers under this option would be different from the ES law insofar as it would be an exclusive right and not an unwaivable compensation

    'It's not an unwaivable right, it's just one you're not allowed to not charge for, totally different!'

    Yeah, they tried to force Google to pay for linking and Google wasn't stupid enough to oblige, instead opting to drop those that charged and only display those that were fine not being paid for the extra traffic Google sends them, so now they're trying to remove that option entirely so that sites have to charge.

    Hmm, I wonder if history has anything to say about how that is likely to work out...

    They need to stop all this pathetically transparent blather about how this is about 'protecting creators' and just come out and admit that Google has money because it provides products and services people like and use, the old companies didn't bother to actually keep up with what people wanted and assumed that they could just continue doing the same forever without a problem, leading to decreasing profits and control, and they want to force Google to subsidize said failures.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 29 Aug 2016 @ 2:54pm

    Funny.

    1. Lets TAX all the paper aggregators..for reprinting Articles PAID for.. All the way down the line.
    2. HOW to control information(BS) limit access.
    Let tax every person who passes around the Info in your paper..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 5:00pm

    Google just doesn't want to pay up! Pirates! Terrorists!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Aug 2016 @ 5:59pm

    from the that's-not-the-role-of-copyright dept

    But that is what they have turned copyright into. With each passing year they keep bastardizing the intended purpose of copyright more and more into what it is now, nothing more than a tool for obsolete businesses to steal money from successful new businesses.

    Copyright and all associated laws could be and should be completely eliminated and the entire world would be much much better off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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