european commissionDo you remember when we used to read these things called newspapers before the internet came around and practically made them unused?  These days, we’re getting all of our news from online sources, rather than physical medium.  Because of this, there is considerable pressure on other traditional media entertainment, which uses the argument that the work that’s put into their content is being pirated and distributed online without reasonable compensation.

We all know that journalism is critical to democratic societies, but the real question is, “what should be done about the business models of legacy media organizations?  The recently proposed EU copyright directive has one answer — and it’s one that Google doesn’t like very much.

Here’s what the European Commission said in a nutshell about the proposed rules will accomplish:

  • better choice and access to content online and across borders;
  • improved copyright rules on research, education and inclusion of disabled people; and
  • a fairer and sustainable marketplace for creators, the creative industries and the press.

An additional objective of the new rules, which still has yet to be approved by the European Parliament, is to harmonize copyright laws across the EU.  Google said that the directive would take the essentially failed copyright approaches of both Germany and Spain and impose them throughout the entirety of Europe.

The EU is trying to strengthen the bargaining power of traditional publishers versus giant internet companies, such as Google.  Critics re calling the directive’s copyright provisions a link tax.  Publishers are defending this by saying its all about basic fairness.

This would mean that Google would be required to pay whenever it shows publisher content in News or search results.  Similar copyright laws that are in place in Germany and Spain hasn’t yielded the kind of support for traditional news publishers.  But yet, these restrictive laws seem to be quite popular with traditional media, as they blame Google for the decline of their revenues.  They appear to like the compulsory and punitive dimension of these rules.

Google is arguing, pointing to Spain and Germany, the proposed rules could have unintended consequences, such as reducing traffic to news sites:

The proposal looks similar to failed laws in Germany and Spain, and represents a backward step for copyright in Europe. It would hurt anyone who writes, reads or shares the news — including the many European startups working with the news sector to build sustainable business models online. As proposed, it could also limit Google’s ability to send monetizable traffic, for free, to news publishers via Google News and Search. After all, paying to display snippets is not a viable option for anyone.

There is truth to what Google is saying, despite it being an obvious self-interested argument.  It’s very possible that the company could shutter their news sites across Europe if it comes down to having to pay the fees to display links and snippets.   This has already happened in Spain when the Spanish Newspaper Publishers Association sought to prevent Google from shutting down its News site, unsuccessfully, so that t would be forced to pay copyright fees to publishers.

One of the other provisions of the directive would require a more aggressive and proactive policing of music and video content on various sites, such as YouTube.  Any site that uses music and video would have to proactively scan uploaded content before publishing, as to make sure they don’t violate copyright rules, rather than having to enforce copyright post-upload.

Currently, content on YouTube is being policed with what Google is calling Content ID.  But, the more demanding EU rules would created even more requirements than what’s already in place.  Google has defended themselves by saying that the new rules would effectively require “everything uploaded to the web

[to] be cleared by lawyers before it can find an audience.”