Microsoft Offers To Break The Web In A Desperate Attempt To Get Somebody To Use Its Widely-Ignored Bing Search Engine

from the opportunistic-much? dept

One of the key battles surrounding the EU Copyright Directive involves the threshold at which upload filters will block the use of copyright material in things like memes and mashups. A year ago, Germany was proposing ridiculously tight restrictions: 128-by-128 pixel images, and three-second videos. Now, it is framing the issue in terms of uses that aren't "automatically" blocked by upload filters. The proposed limits here are 15 seconds of video or audio, 125K graphics, and 160 -- yes, 160 -- characters of text (original in German). Even these tiny extracts could be subsequently blocked by upload filters, depending on the circumstances.

The worsening situation over upload filters has obscured the other bad idea of the EU Copyright Directive: the so-called "link tax", which would require large Internet companies like Google to pay when they use even small amounts of news material. One worrying development in this area is that the idea has spread beyond the EU. As Techdirt reported, Australia is bringing in what amounts to a tax on Google and Facebook for daring to send traffic to legacy news organizations -- notably those of Rupert Murdoch. In July last year, the Australian government released a draft of what is now dubbed the "News Media Bargaining Code". One of the people arguing against the idea is Tim Berners-Lee (pdf):

Requiring a charge for a link on the web blocks an important aspect of the value of web content. To my knowledge, there is no current example of legally requiring payments for links to other content. The ability to link freely -- meaning without limitations regarding the content of the linked site and without monetary fees -- is fundamental to how the web operates, how it has flourished till present, and how it will continue to grow in decades to come.

He concludes: "If this precedent were followed elsewhere it could make the web unworkable around the world." This, indeed, is the danger here: if Australia and the EU go ahead with their plans, it is likely to become the norm globally, with serious consequences for the Internet as a whole.

In response, Google has threatened to pull out of Australia entirely. That's probably just part of its negotiating strategy. In a blog post from a couple of months ago, Mel Silva, VP for Google Australia & New Zealand, wrote: "we strongly believe that with the practical changes we've outlined [in the post], there is a path forward." Similarly, Australian's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is now talking of a "constructive" conversation with Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai. But that hasn't stopped Microsoft sensing an opportunity to make life harder for its rival in the online search market. Microsoft's President, Brad Smith, has published the following intervention:

Microsoft fully supports the News Media Bargaining Code. The code reasonably attempts to address the bargaining power imbalance between digital platforms and Australian news businesses. It also recognises the important role search plays, not only to consumers but to the thousands of Australian small businesses that rely on search and advertising technology to fund and support their organisations. While Microsoft is not subject to the legislation currently pending, we'd be willing to live by these rules if the government designates us.

And here's why it "fully supports" this misguided link tax:

Microsoft will ensure that small businesses who wish to transfer their advertising to Bing can do so simply and with no transfer costs. We recognise the important role search advertising plays to the more than two million small businesses in Australia.

We will invest further to ensure Bing is comparable to our competitors and we remind people that they can help, with every search Bing gets better at finding what you are looking for.

That is, in a desperate attempt to get someone to use its still largely-ignored search engine Bing, Microsoft is apparently willing to throw the Web under the bus. It's an incredibly short-sighted and selfish move. Sure, it's legitimate to want to take advantage of a rival's problems. But not to the extent of causing serious harm to the very fabric of the Web, the hyperlink.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Filed Under: australia, bing, competition, google tax, link tax, links, news
Companies: google, microsoft


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 4 Feb 2021 @ 10:13pm

    Re:

    Are you saying that you keep getting porn when looking for something else, or are you just saying that you find it an invaluable tool when you have the need?


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