Contrary to what Google is claiming in its public relations campaign, “Together for Copyright,” the changes Google is lobbying for to the European Union’s proposed Copyright Directive would have detrimental effects on the availability of – and your access to – high-quality online news and information in Europe.
Why would Google launch such a coordinated effort against a relatively obscure piece of legislation? The Copyright Directive includes a clause (known as Article 11) that would create a so-called Publishers’ Right, which would finally grant European publishers the right to protect their original content online. This is a basic right that other creative industries, including film and music, already have in the EU. Currently, online platforms such as Google and other corporate businesses can use – and make money from – publishers’ online news content every day, paying the publishers nothing. For obvious reasons, Google would prefer to keep the status quo and go on using publishers’ content for free, but this is not a fair and equitable arrangement for news publishers, many of whom are already struggling with decreased revenues from shifting preferences away from print, and advertisers electing to give their dollars to the platforms.
There are a couple different versions of Article 11 currently being considered. The European Parliament’s version would provide a clear and governable standard to protect original news content from online abuse, such as unauthorized use by platforms and businesses. Google would like you to believe that this version would require publishers to charge for use of their content. However, that is incorrect. The proposal would not require Google to publish or pay for content, nor would it require publishers to demand licenses. Article 11 would actually increase the publishers’ options when making decisions on how to make their content available online, and they would not be required to charge for their content.
Unlike Google’s recommendation to let publishers waive their right to protect their content online, the Parliament’s version of Article 11 would create certainty and remove the guess work for both publishers and companies that wish to use news content online for commercial purposes by establishing a clear standard.
Journalists support a strong Publishers’ Right. Google claims it wants to help journalists find an audience and make a living, yet the changes they are proposing to Article 11 would weaken publishers’ rights to protect their content. Contrary to what Google claims in its campaign, adopting a strong Publishers’ Right would ensure the public’s continued access to a diverse pool of information online. It would also not limit or concern ordinary internet users wanting to read and share news articles online. Parliament’s Version of the Publishers’ Right would only apply to unauthorized, commercial users. Google likes to falsely assert that smaller publishers would be harmed by Article 11 because it helps Google’s case, but in fact, small publishers would only be harmed if Google and other internet giants wanted to harm them.
While Google is using scare tactics in order to sway public opinion, the Publishers’ Right is simply about securing a basic right for publishers to protect their original content, which will allow them to continue to reinvest and ensure the long-term sustainability of high-quality journalism in our society. An informed public relies on a healthy online ecosystem that offers an abundance of accurate and reliable information. Without fair compensation for commercial use of news content, the financial futures of free and independent news organizations and journalists are at risk. Google asks you to imagine if you couldn’t find your favorite local news or special interest content. Supporting a strong Publishers’ Right is the best way to ensure you can continue to find it.
For more information, visit: The EU Copyright Directive: Myths vs. Facts
Members of the News/Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.