Google Shows What Google News Looks Like If Article 11 Passes In The EU Copyright Directive

from the bye-bye-news-content dept

While much of the focus concerning the EU's Copyright Directive have been about Article 13 and the censorship and mandatory filters it will require, an equally troubling part is Article 11, which will create a "snippet" tax on anyone who aggregates news and sends traffic back to the original sites (for free) without paying those news sites. This is dumb for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that this plan has been tried in both Germany and Spain, and failed miserably in both places. Indeed, studies in Spain showed that this law actually did tremendous harm to smaller news sites (which the EU insists this law is designed to help). The latest version we've seen in the EU Copyright Directive is even worse than the laws in Germany and Spain in that it is so vague and so unclear that it is possible to read them to say that using more than a single word will make the aggregator liable for the tax.

In Spain, as you may recall, when that law was passed, Google responded by turning off Google News in Spain entirely, saying that it was impossible to remain in the country under that law. As they noted (and which everyone pushing for these laws always ignores), Google actually doesn't put any advertisements on Google News. It's not monetizing it (despite lies from supporters of these laws that Google is "profiting" off of their work, when Google is actually sending traffic for free). So there were some questions about what Google would do with Google News in Europe if Article 11 becomes law.

The company has now hinted at its plans by leaking a beta test of what Google News would look like under Article 11. The answer? It would look almost entirely empty:


As you can see, because the tax applies to using any words from the articles, what a "compliant" Google News looks like is a Google News page where none of the content actually loads. All you get is the names of the publications and nothing else.

Of course, this is going to infuriate supporters of Article 11, who will insist that this is awful and some terrible game that Google is playing. But it's their own fault for writing a law that says this is what you have to do. Supporters will again argue that this is not what they intended -- instead, the whole point of Article 11 is to try to force Google to "license" the news it links to. But these leaked screenshots more or less highlight how the EU Copyright Directive is truly little more than a shakedown of Google. Basically, the entire point of the law is "Google, give money to failing newspapers, or we'll force your News site to look like shit." And Google is suggesting it might just call the EU's bluff on this.

At the very least, this makes it clear that the entire point of the EU Copyright Directive -- especially Articles 11 and 13 -- are a weak attempt to say "Google is successful, therefore, Google should give a lot more of its money to companies that haven't been successful in the internet age." If the EU just named it "the tax Google because our own industries failed to innovate" Directive, it would at least be a bit more intellectually honest.

Filed Under: article 11, copyright, eu, eu copyright directive, google news, link tax, news aggregation, snippet tax
Companies: google


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  1. icon
    Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 17 Jan 2019 @ 4:13am

    A Blessing in Disguise...

    Wasn't the old mantra that the internet sees censorship as a system failure and will try to route around it?

    Article 11 and 13 provide an opportunity to reinvigorate the decentralized nature of the Internet that has been lost with the raise of the internet giants as Google and Facebook, and my message to traditional publishers in this regard will be "be careful what you wish for"

    Article 11 will be relatively easy to work around. Publishing parties that wish to have their snippets displayed with search results simply set up a "snippet server"; the search engine will only return pointers to those snippets, and the end-user's browser will retrieve them, directly from the server under control of the publisher. A few safeguards may be needed to stop rogue publishers from gaming the system, by using cryptographic hashes of the content, but after that, those publisher who want snippets in search results can have them, pulled directly from own their service. Search engines only need to provide the address of the server and the hash, the browser will retrieve the rest, and compose a view indistinguishable from the current search results. Search engines can provide a further service of summarizing articles and uploading snippets to those servers, and even provide completely configured servers as docker images or something similar. Publishers who do not want this can simply not participate and become irrelevant.

    Working around article 13 may take a little more time. Here the idea is that we do not need the giants to build a social network. Already we see a rapidly growing market for NAS devices. Such devices are actually much more than just a NAS. They can also run web services. It is fairly easy to envision running software on these that provide functionality the likes of LinkedIn or Facebook provide today, but then without much of the privacy concerns or advertising overload. I envision within a few years, small NAS devices will emerge with a "Facebook-in-a-box" application configured ready-to-go. Key features will be privacy and ease-of-use. Owners can add friends and control their access, software can pull together "walls" from the servers of all friends they have access to, and friend-of-friend items can be copied (if so configured) to create the same experience without a central server. Legally, owners of such NAS boxes/servers will of course remain fully liable for copyright infringement (as they are today when they post on social networks), but since there is no intermediary (except of course the ISP's, who cannot see the data, as everything will be end-to-end encrypted), intermediary liability is not an issue. Sharing memes, holiday pictures and funny cat movies will remain possible without any filter, and a thing going viral will now not just involve sharing a link, but the physical copying of files between connected people. As NAS with several terabytes can be had for a couple of hundred dollars or euros, and such as NAS boxes have many great features beyond sharing holiday pictures, I give them a great future.

    Of course, such a fully decentralized social network will quickly be found to be perfectly tailored to also share copyrighted materials between friends. Given six degrees of separation, popular stuff will continue to spread fairly rapidly and many authors will be happy with it. but the stream of revenue publishers now get from Facebook and YouTube will dry up.

    So maybe we should thank the EP for this...

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