EU Publishers Acknowledge Snippet Tax Concerns, But Say: 'It's OK, You Can Trust Us'

from the yeah,-sure dept

Techdirt has been following the ridiculous proposal to extend EU copyright even further to include tiny snippets from articles for years now. The idea has already been tried twice in the European Union, and failed dismally on both occasions. In Spain, a study showed the move there caused serious economic damage, especially to smaller companies; German publishers tacitly admitted the law was pointless when they granted Google a free license to use snippets from their titles. More recently, the European Commission's own research confirmed that far from harming publishers, news aggregators have a positive impact on the industry's advertising revenue. Despite the clear indications that a snippet tax is a terrible idea, some want to go even further, and make it apply to hyperlinks too. Writing in the French newspaper Le Monde back in December, large news agencies including Germany's DPA and France's AFP complained that sites:

offer internet users the work done by others, the news media, by freely publishing hypertext links to their stories. […] Solutions must be found. […] We strongly urge our governments, the European parliament and the commission to proceed with this directive.

Now EU publishers have weighed in on the snippet tax, formally known as Article 11 of the proposed Copyright Directive. Their latest position paper, embedded below, makes a confession:

We acknowledge that concerns have been raised that Article 11 as proposed by the Commission may have a negative effect on the legitimate personal non-commercial use of excerpts from press publications by a natural person by way of hyperlinking or sharing.

But there's no reason to worry, they say, for the following reason:

However, we would like to emphasize that it is in publishers' interest to make their products available as widely as possible, on as many platforms as possible and this is why publishers themselves encourage their readers to share articles and news on social media for free.

In other words: trust us, we won't misuse a new right to forbid anyone from sharing even tiny snippets. Except, of course, copyright holders have repeatedly abused their intellectual monopoly to censor material, in precisely this way. EU publishers want this new right to block snippets to apply even to single words:

We therefore question the necessity of introducing in the new [EU] Presidency's compromise text, a reduction of the scope of protection granted to press publishers to acts of reproduction and making available to the public performed by "service providers" and excluding "individual words or very short extracts of text".

They also want to extend the scope of the snippet ban:

In our view it is essential that any commercial entity or organisation, regardless of their business model, including those currently licensed by press publishers, exclusively or collectively, continues to be within scope of protection. Typically these organisations can be aggregators, media monitoring and press clipping agencies, individual companies, or public institutions.

This isn't just about making search engines pay for the privilege of using snippets of text: it would include every company, of whatever size, and every public body, however meritorious or altruistic its activities, that uses them. The new position paper is important because it makes clearer than ever before that the snippet tax is not about stopping a few big players like Google from indexing stories from publications. After all, that could be easily achieved by blocking the crawlers using the robot.txt file. Article 11 is about something much bigger. It is the latest expression of the publishing industry's apparently infinite sense of entitlement -- that it has a right to control even "individual words or very short extracts of text" used by "any commercial entity or organisation, regardless of their business model", as the document puts it. The egotism of publishers is so monstrous that they don't even care if achieving this insane level of control over the Internet goes against their own economic interests, as the evidence shows it will. Power, it seems, is more important than profits.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:06pm

    >However, we would like to emphasize that it is in publishers' interest to make their products available as widely as possible

    And a snippet tax will reduce that availability. As to trust in your intent, once you have new source of income you will expand to replace shrinking income elsewhere in your business

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

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:13pm

    EU publishers want this new right to block snippets to apply even to single words:

    Meaning that if you link without snippet - only a title - the title could be declared a snippet.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:23pm

    Next...EU to introduce "headline tax" --- titles of content are copyrighted content themselves.

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

  • icon
    crade (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:29pm

    "Power, it seems, is more important than profits"

    Only more important than short term profits. They are playing the long game. Once they have established that it is their god given right to be paid for snippets you can bet they will will move onto whatever the next stage of regulatory capture is. In the mean time, they just grant a free license to anyone big enough they can't bully and otherwise use it to sue (or at least settle with) small companies who can't defend themselves..

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:29pm

    Their actions betray their words

    However, we would like to emphasize that it is in publishers' interest to make their products available as widely as possible, on as many platforms as possible and this is why publishers themselves encourage their readers to share articles and news on social media for free.

    And yet they are pushing for something that will drastically reduce that availability across platforms and services by demanding to be paid for the traffic they are being sent.

    The funny thing is they're half right, it is in their best interests to have their products available as widely as possible, but their problem is in their short-sighted greed they're going about it entirely wrong, thinking only about the (non-existent) piles of money they'll get once they can finally demand payment for being sent traffic, and completely ignoring the multiple past examples showing that that's just not how it works.

    At this point I'm pretty sure that the primary goal of this is to screw over the smaller publishers, with an extra payday a bonus, but not the main goal, as if they are actually trying to help themselves here, then their actions are colossally stupid and counter-productive.

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

    • identicon
      tp, 22 Feb 2018 @ 2:48am

      Re: Their actions betray their words

      > it is in publishers' interest to make their products available as widely as possible,

      This isn't true. This is internet meme only, not grounded in reality.

      > they are pushing for something that will drastically reduce that availability across platforms

      No author can reach the whole world. It's surpricingly small area of the world that the author can properly provide reasonable service. Author needs to be active in the whole area, to provide the best service that the users want. It is illegal to distribute the product outside the area where the author is active. Maintaining the product isn't possible outside that area. Copyright infringement lawsuits are usually coming from areas of the world where author has no way to provide reasonable service, since his reach does not extend to that area of the world.

      Internet is no different. Some areas of the internet (like darknet) are inaccessible to many authors, and they are not required to maintain that area of the world. If it turns out that piracy requires them to maintain that area, expect copyright infringement lawsuits.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 22 Feb 2018 @ 3:27am

        Re: Re: Their actions betray their words

        "This isn't true. This is internet meme only, not grounded in reality."

        Why? Sorry, you have to do better here than "my bare assertion is better than your bare assertion". Explain, in detail, why this is not a benefit to publishers.

        "No author can reach the whole world"

        Define "reach" in this context. There are several definitions, and your assertion is false under at least one of them.

        "It's surpricingly small area of the world that the author can properly provide reasonable service."

        Define "reasonable service".

        "It is illegal to distribute the product outside the area where the author is active"

        False. It may be illegal to provide it to an area where neither the author nor an authorised distributor has given express permission for it to be distributed, but nothing says that the author has to personally be active there. The author may not even have to give express permission, depending on the type of work and area (for example, if you say you allow something to be distributed in France, you may actually be giving permission across the entire EU, depending on the type or product. So, a guy in Poland may be able to buy it even if you didn't say it could be distributed there).

        "Maintaining the product isn't possible outside that area"

        Absolute bull. The maintenance of the product and the area of distribution are two completely different things. It also, again, depends on your definition of "maintenance", so you need to be more clear. If you're talking ab out things like marketing and translation, these are rarely undertaken by the original author anyway.

        "Copyright infringement lawsuits are usually coming from areas of the world where author has no way to provide reasonable service, since his reach does not extend to that area of the world."

        Then, surely he'd be better served extending his reach rather than suing people who have no way of paying him for a legal service even if they want to.

        Your arguments are vague and lacking. Would you like to explain yourself better?

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

        • identicon
          tp, 22 Feb 2018 @ 4:39am

          Re: Re: Re: Their actions betray their words

          > Then, surely he'd be better served extending his reach rather than suing people who have no way of paying him for a legal service even if they want to.

          Extending the reach isn't possible. If you stretch it too much, humans turn to robots and become machines which can only follow intructions from their environment. You could consider it a failure to maintain free will, when internet keeps demanding for maintainance of past products.

          Think for example all these computers that the internet is built from. Soon all of them will be e-waste, shipped somewhere to the africa, since european countries do not know what to do with the waste. Sadly EU decided that the gadgets need to stay within the area of the world that actually benefitted from their creation. This way poor countries that cannot yet control their borders do not get environmental problems coming from creation of the internet.

          This same way, author's area of influence -- i.e. how widely his products were used, determines the area of the world that the author is responsible of. If he created the next world war, he needs to take responsibility of it's creation. If his books or products creates havoc somewhere in the world, the author is obviously responsible. This is why authors need to be active in the area where his products are being used. And this is why copyright restricts how widely the product can be DISTRIBUTED.

          Now distribution is just part of what copyright is all about. There's also performance and display limitations. But maybe we'll leave that to the next time.

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 22 Feb 2018 @ 4:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Their actions betray their words

            What the hell?

            OK, I thought you were just unable to express exactly what you were talking about. I see now that you're insane and don't have anything worth talking about in the context of authors reaching their audience. Sorry to waste your time.

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

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:41pm

    Are they trying to legislate themselves into extinction?
    They know it failed several times, so they want to try it on a bigger scale. "The solution to the problem is more of the problem", which is the insanity I thought the US had a monopoly on.

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:52pm

      Re:

      The legal profession sees the writing on the wall: AI and automation making many jobs disappear over the next 20 years. This is an attempt to preserve if not create jobs in their own sector.

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

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:41pm

    So hurry up and get your work published on the internet. Once the law is passed in the EU, proceed to sue every single publisher who dares to publish any of the words that appear in your work.

    You don't have to win the lawsuit. Simply responding to a few thousand individual lawsuits should be enough of a financial hit that the publishers will be back begging the EU to change the law, or they go bankrupt. Either result will be a win for the public.

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

  • icon
    sehlat (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 12:42pm

    "Trust us" translated into plain English.

    F*ck you!

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

    • identicon
      David, 21 Feb 2018 @ 4:10pm

      Re: "Trust us" translated into plain English.

      More like "this shot will not harm you as long as you don't get between us and our foot".

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 6:22pm

        Re: Re: "Trust us" translated into plain English.

        "That's not too hard, that's what, a few feet of distance?"

        "Oh, sorry, when we say 'our foot' we're actually talking about something else, a particular object that we've placed on the other side of a number of businesses, a house or two, and an orphanage just for fun. Also we're using a howitzer rather than a handgun so... duck?"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2018 @ 1:12pm

    Flamebait

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

  • icon
    flyinginn (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 1:21pm

    I'm missing something. How can a snippet be a single word, since a single word cannot provide a unique source? If it is an unusual word like "benzophosphenolhydride" which is coincidentally the subject of a news story, how can I prohibit the use of this snippet on e.g. my company pharmaceutical innovations blog? Is this a literary snippet law or can I still point to stories using non-linguistic syntax (hex addressing)? The concept of protecting "small excerpts" of single word size must logically be extended to other publications and media. For example, will musical snippets of single note size be protected?

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 22 Feb 2018 @ 12:56am

      Re:

      Short answer - they can't, they just want to be able to claim control over the maximum amount of stuff so they can get Google et al to pay them money for nothing at every opportunity.

      That's ultimately what this is about - they're failing to make money, other people are, so they want the money other people are getting without having to innovate for it. They just want the maximum leverage they can claim.

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 2:25pm

    Now can we demand payment from "publishers" who quote us or what. This should work equally for everyone.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2018 @ 7:04pm

    So, if I'm writing a blog post and I don't want to pay the snippet tax, I might refer back to a source article by saying something like, "I found this information from a certain article on a certain website. I can't actually mention which article or which website or I'd have to pay them a fee."

    How exactly is this supposed to benefit the publishers, again?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 21 Feb 2018 @ 7:33pm

      Re:

      Well clearly their stuff is just so valuable that people will be tripping over themselves in order to pay for the privilege of linking to them and/or providing snippets that could sent traffic their way.

      You know, just like how it worked the last several times they've tried this stunt.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 22 Feb 2018 @ 4:59am

      Re:

      It won't. Ms Rowling will sue them because "that-article-that-shall not be named from he-who-must-not-be-named" contains 2 copyrighted and possibly trademarked terms or all of its semantic iterations.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Feb 2018 @ 11:35pm

    Parasites vs. Symbionts

    As long as this is a "may charge" law, not a "must charge" one, the chance for all the smaller purveyors of news to gain the fullest benefits of free SEO upranking by Google, et al. is HUGE.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2018 @ 1:47am

    this all goes back to the original stupid rulings in the USA over what the entertainment industries wanted and felt entitled to have, ie, continuous right to screw customers while keeping control of who does what with media files, just like thay have had for the past 100 years and their unending fight to take control of the Internet! the EU are being equally as stupid and following in the bad footsteps of what started in the USA and is spreading worldwide, all because of the the continuous flow of 'campaign contributions' issued to corrupt politicians, judges and law enforcement!! stamp on these and the worlds will be able to advance in technology and 'good for all'., leave things to carry on and the planet will become one that is completely run by the various entertainment industries, while being under full and total surveillance, 24/7. remember 'Iron Hand' in Jason Bourne? that isn't a patch on what we already have or what's coming!

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

  • icon
    David (profile), 22 Feb 2018 @ 2:33am

    Two butts

    And they talk out of both of them.

    Widely share their publications, except you will need a license for specific 'words'. Which will no doubt be more expensive if you should ever want to use a short bit of text.

    The farce is strong with that one.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2018 @ 5:43am

    This might not be a "publishing vs Google" fight....

    I just had this crazy idea...

    What is the simplest, most logical response that Google can take to this mess? Drop all EU publishers off their platform, of course. It's no skin off their noses, after all and a perfect opportunity to improve their automatic translation services.

    So what is the simple, reasonable response that a news publishing company can make in such a situation? Well, create an offshore shell company, somewhere well outside EU borders that they will "sell" their own news to so that Google can link to it!

    From the news agency's point of view, it's a perfect opportunity to improve their standing in Google's rankings and perhaps push the competition out of the market.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2018 @ 11:03am

    Thank the Lord the UK is leaving the EU before everyone has to pay 1cent per hyperlink clicked.

    the EU is busy burning itself to the ground, Spain and Italy have expressed a desire to leave and are in the early stages of planning Brexit-style referendums. (referendii?).

    The whole crapshoot is collapsing faster than my new years resolution to eat less junk food and go to the gym.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 23 Feb 2018 @ 1:51am

      Re:

      If you think the UK isn't capable of doing idiotic stuff like this on their own, and worse, you haven't been paying attention to Tory policy.

      I know it's hard to keep track of with the "we honestly don't know what we're doing but somehow it'll all be magically better even though we didn't do any real research before triggering article 50, trust us!" approach to Brexit, but there is far worse coming from Westminster without the EU having to say a word.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 23 Feb 2018 @ 2:23am

        Re: Re:

        I have yet to meet a Brexit supporter who has done any research at all on the subject. They usually repeat right wing tropes and that's about it.

        Meanwhile, the consequences of leaving are framed as "punishment," but that's just for us. Any EU citizen stupid enough to apply for UK citizenship having been married to a Brit for 20 years or more is apparently only experiencing consequences when they receive deportation orders, it's not punishment or anything.

        Ladies and gentlemen... Brexit. What a dumpster fire of utter stupidity and magical thinking!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2018 @ 3:46pm

    Don't worry, you can trust our greed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2018 @ 1:47pm

    When any government exclaims, "Trust us." People just raise their arms in praise and trust and love and faith and.. yeah right!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2018 @ 2:02pm

    This eu snippet tax has its far off sights fixed on the obliteration of the internet, sending it into oblivion.

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


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