Google has had their fair share of quarrels with European news publishers and governments in Germany and Spain, both of whom have tried getting the company to pay copyright fees for the indexing of news content.  Google has largely prevailed in these instances.  However, publishers haven’t been deterred from continuing to make the case that US internet giants need to pay for their content.

There is a new consortium of nine European press agencies that is arguing that Google and Facebook make money from news content and pay little or nothing for it.  To these press agencies assert that news organizations – “a pillar of democracy” – are financially vulnerable.  They feel that Facebook’s and Google’s profits are soaring.

These US companies have taken the position that inclusion and exposure of publisher content has driven online traffic to the news websites, and therefore, is a benefit.  In the wake of a dispute in a 2013 “Ancillary Copyright” Law, Google removed the snippets and thumbnails of German publishers.  The publishers ended up requesting the return of snippets, as if to acknowledge Google’s position.

There are always two view points to a disagreement.  To Google, the indexing of news content is seen as a benefit, but to the publishers, it’s nothing but exploitation.  The persistence of those publisher arguments is fueled by the perception of fundamental unfairness, objective financial need and European nationalism (vs US tech companies).  But according to the reports, it seems that members of the European Parliament are ambivalent to the efforts to “tax” Google and Facebook to subsidize publishers.

Will there be enough sympathetic European legislators to pick up the case and try devise a pan-EU response to the publisher’s arguments?  We’ll have to see.  European politicians have a higher chance to intervene in the market than their US counterparts.

The news agency consortium included press agencies from France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands.

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