Leaked EU Copyright Proposal A Complete Mess: Want To Tax Google To Prop Up Failing Publishers

from the that's-not-the-role-of-copyright dept

Well, here we go again with the bad EU copyright proposals. Just a few days ago, Mozilla actually launched a petition to call on the EU to update its copyright laws for the 21st century, to make it "so we can tinker, create, share, and learn on the internet." Apparently the EU's answer to this is "Fuck You!"

According to a leaked draft of the EU Commission's plan to "modernize" copyright, the plan really seems focused on coming up with new ways to tax successful internet companies, like Google, to prop up other companies and industries that have failed to adapt. Apparently, the EU Commission thinks that copyright should be a tool to punish innovation and to reward those who have refused to innovate.

The leaked draft talks repeatedly about this silly idea of a "value gap." Just a few weeks ago we discussed why the "value gap" is a misleading talking point. It's being used by companies that didn't innovate to try to guarantee a business model, with that model being "have the government force successful companies to subsidize us, because we didn't adapt to the current market." And this draft is full of that kind of thinking.

The draft also continues to weigh "the impact" of various proposals on different stake holders. For example, it notes whether different proposals will have a "positive, neutral, or negative" impact on rightsholders, internet services, consumers and "fundamental rights." While it's nice that they include the "fundamental rights" (and the public -- who, it should be noted, are more than just "consumers") it feels like they're trying to set up proposals again that are sort of "balancing" all of these interests, rather than finding the one that maximizes overall utility. In fact, it's quite troubling that they seem to think that anything that directly expands copyright automatically benefits "rightsholders." We've seen how that's not true at all. Greater freedom to remix, reuse and build on the works of others allow everyday people to become creators themselves more easily. And saddling internet platforms also harms many, many content creators who are only able to create, publicize, distribute, connect and monetize because of these new platforms. But the draft doesn't seem to take much of that into account -- or sort of hand-waves it away.

Even the way the draft describes "problems" show that it's biased at looking for ways to prop up old industries:
In particular intervention at EU level is expected, because of its scale, to strengthen publishers bargaining powers in a more effective way than it has happened under national measures such as the "ancillary rights" adopted in DE and ES, where major online service providers either closed down their news aggregation services (ES) or concluded free licences for the use of publishers' content (DE) which did not generate any remuneration for publishers so far. Moreover the related right granted to press publishers under this option would be different from the ES law insofar as it would be an exclusive right and not an unwaivable compensation: this would leave news publishers a greater margin for manoeuvre to negotiate different types of agreements with service providers and is therefore expected to be more effective for them in the long run (notably as it will allow press publishers to develop new business models in a flexible way).
Basically, so much is looking at how can we prop up newspaper businesses by basically forcing Google to pay them to link to them. Even more ridiculously, the report says that basically pushing Google to pay to link to news will "benefit consumers" because it will mean more "high quality" news. That seems like a dubious assumption.
Consumers reap considerable benefits from news aggregators and social media news providers. At the same time they also benefit from high quality newspaper content feeding these channels of consumption. By fostering the production of high quality news content, this option is expected to have a positive impact on consumers. Better market conditions for the news publishing industry could give rise to the development of innovative offers for the digital distribution of news content, with larger catalogues and more choice. Digital subscription of newspapers and magazines are expected to be further developed, which will be particularly beneficial to consumers given the decline of print products.
That seems like the EU Commission is only thinking a single step out, and not any further about how business models may develop. Doing this will also lock in Google as the dominant player and not allow newer, better, more innovative startups to enter the market without first having to raise significant amounts of capital. The report notes that consumer groups disagree with the assumption that consumers will benefit under such a plan, but the entirety of the Commissions reason for this is "well, this is different from the Spanish law that made Google News shut down."

All in all, this looks like (unfortunately typical for Europe) plan written by bureaucrats looking to basically minimize the number of people who are upset, rather than creating the best actual overall plan. As a result, the proposals look to be a mess, that will almost certainly harm innovation and creativity in Europe.
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Filed Under: ancillary copyright, copyright, copyright reform, eu, google tax, publishers


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