EU Commission Hid Yet Another Report That Showed Its Assumptions About Copyright Were Wrong

from the evidence-based-policymaking dept

For many years we've criticized copyright policymakers who rely on "faith-based" policymaking. That is, they believe that copyright is inherently "good" and refuse to consider any evidence showing harms from copyright that is too strong, or refuse to concede that there may be better ways to create incentives or to remunerate creators beyond copyright. The idea of actually having evidence-based copyright has long seemed like a pipedream -- and apparently the EU Commission would like to keep it that way. Back in September, we wrote about how the EU Commission spent $400,000 on a study that showed unauthorized downloads had little impact on sales -- and then refused to release the report, recognizing that it would undermine the narrative they were pushing in trying to expand anti-piracy laws.

And, now, another such "buried" report has been discovered. As with the last one, this new report was discovered by Pirate Party EU Parliament Member Julia Reda, though she used the standard EU Freedom of Information process that anyone else could have used. After discovering that last report, she made a request for all copyright related studies that the EU Commission had requested since 2013, even if they were unpublished. That initial request listed out some papers that were still in progress -- including the one that Reda has now released. This study is one that a lot of news publishers almost certainly wished would have never seen the light of day -- which might explain why the EU Commission kept it buried.

The report focuses on the question of news aggregators and what impact they're having on news publishers. As you may recall, publishers around the globe -- but especially in Europe -- have been insisting that aggregators like Google News are somehow responsible for their own business failures, and are demanding that Google pay them for the awful crime of sending them traffic. The fact that these publishers could easily block Google from sending them traffic -- but refuse to do so -- reveals that they really do find that traffic valuable. But they still want payments on top of it, and will continue to demonize Google News and other aggregators until they get it. And, indeed, the EU Commission continues to suggest that forcing aggregators to pay publishers would be a good idea.

But, perhaps not surprisingly, the study that the Commission requested shows the exact opposite of what the publishers claim. Looking at situations in Spain and Germany -- both countries that tried to force Google to pay -- gives some real world evidence that is inconvenient for publishers and those pushing for these kinds of laws:

The available empirical evidence shows that news aggregators have a positive impact on news publishers' advertising revenue.

The research goes through a number of different empirical studies to conclude this. It notes that there are two competing forces, and the empirical question is which force wins out. News publishers insist that aggregators work as a substitute for their sites, while aggregators (and others!) insist that they're complementary, and that news aggregators drive more traffic, which the publishers can then monetize. It then cites a whole bunch of studies presenting empirical evidence that the complementary effects far outweigh the substitution effects. As the paper concludes:

We can conclude from this overview that the studies published so far contain no empirical evidence in support of the substitution hypothesis and thus no evidence that online aggregators have a negative impact on original newspaper publishers' revenue. On the contrary, the evidence shows that aggregators may actually be complements to newspaper websites and may help consumer discover more news and boost the number of visits.

All of this seems like, damn, it would be kind of useful if you were trying to create good copyright policy. But instead the report was completely buried and hidden, while the EU Commission to this day continues to push for policies that insist the substitution effect is stronger than the complementary effect. Even though the evidence that the very same Commission asked for shows that's untrue.

So, once again, it's feeling like evidence-based copyright remains a pipedream. What's unfortunate, though, is that in the past we felt it was a pipedream because no one was willing to do the research. Now it appears it's a pipedream because policymakers, when shown the evidence, will do everything possible to hide it, rather than to use it to create more effective and reasonable copyright laws.


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 27 Dec 2017 @ 8:28am

    But, but.. How are we going to make Google pay us for the privilege of sending traffic our way! Think of the children! - publishers

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 9:38am

    ALL available empirical evidence shows that news publishers produce content and provide news aggregators with unearned advertising revenue.

    You have value creation backwards as ever: "The available empirical evidence shows that news aggregators have a positive impact on news publishers' advertising revenue."

    Google, for instance, gets tens of billions for simply putting advertising on teh internets. The spying and tracking Google does mainly for fun, meaning of spooks, and is just gravy on top of the nearly free money it gets by controlling a majority of advertising.

    Left alone to simply grow, Google will increasingly control publishers and free speech dissent from Google's political orthodoxy will be suppressed through even more of its current tyranny by withdrawing advertising revenue.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 27 Dec 2017 @ 9:59am

      Re: ALL available empirical evidence shows that news publishers produce content and provide news aggregators with unearned advertising revenue.

      Because Google can't possibly make money by providing a good service while also directing traffic (as it's empirically proven) to the publishers sites as well and delivering them more money (through their own advertising towards that extra traffic) without charging a penny. ALL OF YOUR MONIES ARE BELONG TO THE PUBLISHER!!! Right?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 10:25am

      Re: ALL available empirical evidence shows that news publishers produce content and provide news aggregators with unearned advertising revenue.

      Google only attracts the advertising revenue because it offers a desirable and popular service to people. Without its user base, it advertising revenue would evaporate, and alternative search engines exists.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 1:19pm

        Re: Re: ALL available empirical evidence shows that news publishers produce content and provide news aggregators with unearned advertising revenue.

        In other words, if they didn't do a good job of aggregating news and searches, no one would use them. Thanks for the flash of insight there Skippy.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 2:52pm

          Re: Re: Re: ALL available empirical evidence shows that news publishers produce content and provide news aggregators with unearned advertising revenue.

          They don't aggregate news, just the headlines in a way that people find useful for deciding which news to read in more detail. If the news papers select the wrong stories, write bad headlines, or bad stories, people will stay away, but That is not Google's fault.

          The real problem for Newspapers is that they have competition from bloggers in writing analysis and opinion pieces worth reading, and while Google makes it easier to find those writings, they cannot complain about that.

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 27 Dec 2017 @ 11:35am

      Re: ALL available empirical evidence shows that news publishers produce content and provide news aggregators with unearned advertising revenue.

      You got coal in your stocking again this year; Didnt you?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 4:27pm

      Re: ALL available empirical evidence shows that news publishers produce content and provide news aggregators with unearned advertising revenue.

      You're right. So Google agreed they should pull out - oh, wait, when they did as the newspapers asked, the newspapers begged Google to stay so they could demand more money.

      You guys really don't think your garbage through, do you?

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

  • icon
    steell (profile), 27 Dec 2017 @ 10:15am

    I am totally confused. I just checked my Google News tab again and am still unable to find any advertising on it. Is it subliminal? Or maybe some sort of invisible brainwashing stuff? I'm more than willing to jump on the criticize Google News for making money off advertisements on Google News bandwagon. but somebody has to tell me what to complain about.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 27 Dec 2017 @ 11:54am

    Showd??

    Has shown
    Shows..

    verb (used without object),
    showed, shown or showed, showing.
    14. to be seen; be or become visible:
    Does my slip show?
    15. to be seen in a certain way:
    to show to advantage.
    16. to put on an exhibition or performance; display one's goods or products:
    Several dress designers are showing in New York now.
    17. Informal. to be present or keep an appointment; show up:
    He said he would be there, but he didn't show.
    18. to finish third in a horse race, harness race, etc.

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Dec 2017 @ 1:30pm

    It's not an 'assumption' if you know you're wrong...

    That's called 'willful blindness', 'dishonesty' and similar terms.

    Before they received the studies that showed that what they were pushing for wasn't based upon facts, and was in fact contradicted by the facts, saying they were making 'assumptions' might have been accurate. After those studies however it's clear that they are being grossly dishonest, pushing for things they know aren't supported by the evidence.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 27 Dec 2017 @ 8:33pm

      Re: It's not an 'assumption' if you know you're wrong...

      The REAL problem, I see, was that REALITY was displayable..
      Microsoft, buying up small and BIG companies and killing them OFF..even when they made a better product..
      THE RIAA/MPAA and the EU equivalents.. Stamping feet and yelling about everyone copying THEIR PRODUCTS..

      IF it were not for Antiques road show, and some STUPID rich people...OLD CRAP WOULD NOT HAVE VALUE..A chair would be a CHAIR/./

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2017 @ 3:22am

    Read the study conclusion again. Magic word is MAY.

    Oops you did it again.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 28 Dec 2017 @ 3:59pm

      Swing and a miss

      Also included, 'no evidence that online aggregators have a negative impact on original newspaper publishers' revenue', such that there is no empirical evidence that aggregators have a negative effect, with the 'may' noting that in fact it's possible that they are beneficial(a possibility that I'd argue has been confirmed seeing the multiple times publishers rushed to beg Google to re-list them after 'winning' and being removed from their services).

      Sorry to break it to you, but your 'Gotcha' is DOA.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2017 @ 8:38am

    it shows surely, more than anything else, how bias the EU Commission is (is it funded by the copyright industries? is the head honcho paid to keep pushing for what those industries want, rather than trying to make things better for all? seems highly dubious to me!) and that it will go to any lengths to give the copyright industries more of what they want, ie money, for doing much less, while ensuring that their revenue can continue to flow in for as long as possible!!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2017 @ 4:04pm

    A clear case of copywrong.

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

  • icon
    Retsibsi (profile), 29 Dec 2017 @ 4:26pm

    The thing that intrigues me is that *someone* is making conscious decisions not to release reports, reports that were obtained at substantial (pubic) expense. Perhaps he/she/they should be named and asked to provide a (detailed) explanation why they decided to effectively throw those monies away.... and under what authority they did so?

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


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