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Small And Medium Publishers Protest EU Link Tax, Which Will Harm Them, While Helping Only Large Publishers

from the shameful dept

As the EU continues to march towards wrecking the internet with a variety of dangerous proposals in the EU Copyright Directive, many are desperately trying to explain to policymakers there just how much damage they are going to do and asking them to take simple steps to prevent the worst possible outcomes. While most of the attention has been on the awful Article 13 upload filters, the Article 11 link/snippet tax is almost as bad.

Of course, to hear EU supporters of Article 11 explain things, such a brand new "publisher's right" is necessary to help save media organizations who have been undermined by the basic business model of the internet. This is already insanity (and, as we've pointed out, when both Germany and Spain passed similar laws, it harmed media sites, and did nothing to increase their revenue), but if that were the case, you'd expect most media organizations to be totally on board with the plan. That is not the case. A few of the very largest media sites are totally on board (with German publisher Axel Springer being the leading voice in support). But midsize and small publications recognize just how damaging this will be and they've now sent a letter to policymakers, who are working to finalize the Directive, calling out how the existing language puts them (the very entities policymakers claim this law will support) at great risk:

... we’ve noted with deep regret that both the European Council and the European Parliament are advocating for the creation of a new publishers’ right (Article 11 of the proposed Copyright Directive) instead of other alternatives, such as the presumption of rights, put forth by a wide range of stakeholders.

If the European institutions go ahead with the creation of such a right, we believe that it should incorporate key provisions that at least reduce some of the collateral damage to small and medium-sized publishers we expect, including with a view to transposition into national law.

Of particular concern is the idea that Article 11 might require licenses in order to index news content. That means even if a smaller site does not wish to be compensated by a news aggregator -- it has to set up a licensing scheme that requires payment. In effect, this outlaws Creative Commons and numerous business models and distribution strategies for the internet.

We would like to highlight a highly problematic provision adopted by the European Parliament: Article 11 (1) and Recital 32 introduce a remuneration principle which prohibits publishers from allowing indexing of their content online without remuneration. Recital 32 means that news aggregators, podcast aggregators and search engines would not be allowed to serve links with individual words and short extracts of news publisher content without a bespoke agreement stipulating payment – even when a news publisher wishes to be included.

We adamantly believe that any publisher’s right must give publishers the choice to consent to the sharing of their content online. Aggregators, search engines and other online services drive valuable traffic to publishers’ websites, particularly smaller or local ones; and this traffic referral creates huge opportunities to generate revenue through advertising.

Limiting publishers’ freedom in this way will result in detrimental consequences for us, as shown by a similar experience in Spain. The introduction of an unwaivable ancillary copyright in favor of publishers in Spain caused small publishers to lose as much as 15% of their web traffic. This is estimated to have cost the Spanish news publishing industry €10 million a year.

The key issue here is that if news aggregators -- who send sites plenty of traffic -- are required to set up licensing schemes and pay everyone they link to, it is most likely that they will only wish to negotiate with a few larger players, and simply avoid linking to smaller sites, if they continue linking at all. This will disproportionately benefit those large sites. And this would be true even if (as many predict) brand new collection society middlemen show up to collect and distribute such money.

We've already seen this in action. In the US, it's been widely reported how collection society ASCAP simply finds it impossible to track the number of plays of smaller, independent artists, and thus distributes their share to the most popular artists. It is literally taking from the smallest, independent artists, and giving their royalties to the wealthier and more successful ones. The same is likely true of any scheme for reimbursing news sites as well.

Hell, we're a news site here that is always open to new revenue streams, but I find it offensive that the government should step in to try to force other sites to pay us, and expect that even if it did apply to us, it would be such a huge bureaucratic clusterfuck that it wouldn't even be worth the effort to make sure we got paid.

So, really, the various policymakers in the EU should be required to answer a fairly simple question: if so many media sites are directly against this policy, and policymakers are claiming its necessary to help those very sites... then who are they really doing this for in the first place?


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 2:24am

    'You shut up when I'm speaking for you!'

    We would like to highlight a highly problematic provision adopted by the European Parliament: Article 11 (1) and Recital 32 introduce a remuneration principle which prohibits publishers from allowing indexing of their content online without remuneration. Recital 32 means that news aggregators, podcast aggregators and search engines would not be allowed to serve links with individual words and short extracts of news publisher content without a bespoke agreement stipulating payment – even when a news publisher wishes to be included.

    Oh yeah, you can see their concern for the 'rights' of publishers clear as day there.

    'You will demand payment, even if you don't want to. It doesn't matter if it's technically your content, when it comes to whether or not you'll charge for it you have no choice.'

    Looks like someone putting together that dumpster-fire of a law realized that unless they made the link-tax mandatory it would be immediately undermined by those not so shortsighted and greedy as to want to charge for traffic. Of course in doing so they've exposed their real goals and who this is actually meant to benefit, and it's sure as hell not the smaller players.

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

  • icon
    Richard M (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 5:45am

    Most laws have the same problem

    While the consequences of these particular two laws are going to be particularly bad and widespread a high percentage (I personally would say most) laws do not pass the "Does it solve the problem is says it solves?" test.

    You cover a lot of the tech laws that fail the test here and maybe if you were feeling extremely generous you could excuse politicians for not being tech savvy. However they do the same thing with problems that have been around decades or even longer.

    For the most part politicians do not care about whether or not a law actually fixes a problem. All they care about is if it sounds good and appears to fix the problem to uneducated voters so they can increase their personal power and wealth.

    That is not going to change until people start voting better and I am not going to hold my breath for that one.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 7:48am

      Re: Most laws have problems

      Yes, we keep coming back to the same basic problem here (bad laws & bad law enforcement mechanisms), but never recognize the basic problem (bad government).

      If citizens elect people to represent them in their government-- why would citizens then object to the any laws that THEIR REPRESENTATIVES choose to enact?
      But if elected representatives are not really representatives of the citizens... then there is some fundamental flaw in the theory of democratic government.



      >> "So, really, the various policymakers in the EU should be required to answer ..."

      ... apparently TD feels that a solution to bad laws/policies is to FORCE government representatives to explain/answer laws/policies that are disliked by some citizens.
      How would that solution be implemented in the real day to day world of government and what would citizens do if they didn't like the answers from their representatives?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 8:01am

        Re: Re: Most laws have problems

        Gaslighting the voterz ... the new and fashionable trend.

        Yes, you too can dazzle and amaze friends and family alike with your vast knowledge of gaslighting techniques, they will eventually thank you for pointing all their faults and how they just correct them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 6:33am

    "As the EU continues to march towards wrecking the internet..."

    Isn't that the point? Maybe France can finally bring back Minitel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel).

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

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 6:44am

    EU authorities will change their mind when...

    After private indexers are driven out of the EU market, EU authorities will recognize the need for a publicly owned monopoly substitute ("EUgle"?). As "EUgle" gets brought on line, EU authorities will recognize how foolish it is that a government corporation should have to pay publishers for providing them a service. From there, it will be a short step for EUgle to start charging publishers for this service, at monopoly rates.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 6:46am

    Use the law to get around the law.

    Is there language in the law that stipulates how much and/or how often such charges need to be made? If not, why not get a group of these smaller organizations together to write an indexing agreement (open source, of course) that allows that indexing for say 1 Euro per year. Such an agreement could satisfy the law, and if the publishers are just a tiny bit pro-active by contacting and offering this agreement to those aggregators they feel are appropriate, who looses?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 7:14am

      Re: Use the law to get around the law.

      Such an agreement could satisfy the law, and if the publishers are just a tiny bit pro-active by contacting and offering this agreement to those aggregators they feel are appropriate, who looses?

      Smaller aggregators who are not pro-actively offered inclusion into this deal, nor can afford to make deals with larger publishers. Small publishers who now have to spend time and money which they may not have supporting an overarching organization to oversee all these contracts. Also small publishers when the larger aggregators aren't interested in the hassle of dealing with them. The problem is not so much that the larger aggregators aren't interested in paying (which could be solved by token payments), it's that they aren't interested in putting in the effort to work with the small publishers at all. Small publishers, after all, are likely to have increased costs of compliance for takedown of illegal content, etc.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 7:31am

      Re: Use the law to get around the law.

      and if the publishers are just a tiny bit pro-active by contacting and offering this agreement to those aggregators they feel are appropriate, who looses?

      How does a small site even get attention of someone at say Google, to be able to negotiate a license and arrange to receive the payment? If a collection agency is created, it will likely becomes a cost on small publishers, as they have to keep their infomation up to data, but receive no benefits.

      If everybody using links have to negotiate a license, how does a site like Techdirt keep going, especially if their is no guarantee that the license will be granted. (is it is a mandatory fee, it is a license).

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 8:16am

      'Try to bypass our law to 'protect' you? I think not.'

      This will disproportionately benefit those large sites. And this would be true even if (as many predict) brand new collection society middlemen show up to collect and distribute such money.

      If people/companies are able to set their own fees then that would undercut the greedy ones just as easily as no fees at all would, and as such I strongly expect that a good old 'collections' agency will be set up to handle the fees, and if they're not setting the rates the bought out politicians likely will be.

      In any case the 'rights' of the publishers with regards for their content will be trampled by those insisting that they're trying to help, and the fees will likely be well over 1 euro a year.

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

    • icon
      The Wanderer (profile), 2 Nov 2018 @ 11:57am

      Re: Use the law to get around the law.

      I envision a site footer:

      "Any search engine, news aggregator, or other entity which wishes to link to this site is hereby granted permission to do so, conditional on the payment of one euro per ten thousand years, due at any time prior to the expiration of that time period."

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

  • identicon
    SocialMediaIsTooFragmentedForMe, 2 Nov 2018 @ 7:35am

    Isn't this cencorship dressed up as protectionism: the current order in fear of a newer order that's out of order.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 8:42am

    This is well known ,these laws were pushed by the
    big newspaper companys, mostly from germany.
    They don,t care if most of the small media companys go out of business or that these rules
    trample over free speech and users rights to acess
    public domain material.Many us websites will simply
    block users in the eu , rather than install complex web filters that are expensive .They will make google and facebook stronger as it ,ll
    reduce competition in europe.
    Most startups will not have the money to build filters that might block infringing content
    .As written now these laws are a big F u to consumers .Even youtube could be sued because
    joe bloggs posted a video that contains photos,
    or video that was created by someone else.Using dmca filters won,t protect youtube from legal action
    by trolls .

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Nov 2018 @ 9:15am

    And...?

    'It is literally taking from the smallest... and giving their royalties to the wealthier and more successful ones.'

    This is different from everything else happening in America, how?

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

    • identicon
      Dennis Moore, 2 Nov 2018 @ 10:56am

      Re: And...?

      Shut up! It's a hold-up, not a Botany lesson. Now, no false moves please. I want you to hand over all the lupins you've got.

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

  • identicon
    Masahiko Haniu, 11 Nov 2018 @ 7:49pm

    Protest against European copyright LinkTax using blockchain

    I was working on a blockchain project and noticed that my project could be used for protest against European copyright 'LinkTax'. The name of the project is 'LinkRight' which is a blockchain based on Bitcoin source with increased message size (2826 btyes) for each transaction. The message is engraved in the non-modifiable blockchain and the time histories of all the messages or events are kept in the blockchain. No one can delete their messages and deny what did they said. This prevent some demagogues who had written something in Twitter and then removed them afterward. If you are interested to put your messages in the LinkRight blockchain. I can send you some LinkRight coins to start with.

    The screenshot of the LinkRightJ can be found in the following link:
    https://github.com/masahikohaniu/linkrightj-binary/blob/master/LinkRightMessage.png

    The binary can be downloaded from the link as below.
    https://github.com/masahikohaniu/linkrightj-binary

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


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