The European Union is working towards the finalization of a new copyright law which has alarmed search giants including Microsoft and Google. The new copyright law seeks to give publishers the right to demand compensation from Google-parent Alphabet Inc. and other online platforms including Facebook if small snippets of news from their articles appear on their search results. Google is considering to wind up its news service from the Europe completely if the controversial law gets passed.
Google’s public policy manager for Europe region, Jennifer Bernal said that the company is contemplating the prospect of complete wind-up of its news service in Europe as a response to the new law. She added that the Google would consider all possible options before making any final decision but any withdrawal would be reluctant decision.
Two proposed rules have attracted the most controversy, one Article 11 of the law may force Google, Microsoft and others to pay publishers if small snippets appear on its search results and another Article 13 requires online platforms like Instagram and Youtube to verify copyrights before letting users upload it on their site. When Germany and Spain first implemented Article 11 like rule, the news publishing websites reported a plunge in website traffic from the search engines.
The European Commission first proposed these rules in 2016 but due to the disagreement among various member states about the scope of the law it has postponed the implementation of the rules. The EU had plans to finalize the rules by the first week but resistance among member states may drag the legislation process longer.
Google claims that it doesn’t make any money from its news aggregation service and that a harsh withdrawal would not lead to any financial consequence to the company. However, news results from publishers entice the mobile users to come back to the search panel leading to more searches which generates lucrative ad revenues for the company. Google’s withdrawal would also mean losing grounds to other competitors in the news aggregation service field which includes Apple and Microsoft.
Although there are numerous issues surrounding the legislation, but one important issue includes the concerns small print publishers. The first draft of the rules included a provision which enabled some publishers to waive their rights to the news content appearing on the search engine. This meant that larger news organizations with deep pockets would allow their content to appear freely on the search engine in exchange for increased web traffic to their sites. This would prove a disadvantage for small publishers. But European parliament introduced a provision taking into consideration the concerns of the small print publishers which disallows any publishers from allowing their content on Google freely.
Some activists and small publishers are blaming Google’s intense lobbying efforts for the delay in legislative process to finalize the rules. The law has pitted the search giant against small publishers and activists. Although Google has threatened withdrawal, Mr. Francois Godard, a European Media analyst said that he doesn’t buy the threat saying that Europe being the key market for Google, ‘’they cant afford to lose it’’.