The European Commission is currently working on major updates to existing copyright legislation, to reform copyright law to reflect digital content. One feature of this reform would allow media outlets to request payment from search engines, such as Google, for publishing snippets of their content in search results.
The working paper recommends the introduction of an EU law that covers the rights to digital reproduction of news publications. This would essentially make news publishers a new category of rights holders under copyright law, thereby ensuring that “the creative and economic contribution of news publishers is recognized and incentivized in EU law, as it is today the case for other creative sectors.”
Media outlets rely on Google and other search engines to boost traffic to their sites, while at the same time competing with them for advertising dollars. The updated copyright proposal would allow media outlets at their discretion to charge Google for publishing snippets of articles with the results of a user’s search request.
The shift from print to digital consumption of newspaper and magazine content has created what is termed a ‘value gap’ – while a provider’s digital content is gaining popularity, revenues from digital content are not making up for the loss of print revenues.
As the proposal states, “If the investments and contribution of publishers increase the value of publications but are not compensated by sufficient revenues, the sustainability of publishing industries in the EU may be at stake with the risk of further negative consequences on media pluralism, democratic debate and quality of information.”
A similar attempt to charge search engines for snippets in Spain resulted in the shutdown of Google News in the country, and is believed to have contributed to a 14% loss in traffic and related closing of several Spanish publications. When faced with the closing of Google News, the Spanish Newspapers Publishers’ Association requested intervention from the Spanish government and EU competition authorities, but to no avail.
The key objective of the reformed policy is to ensure smooth functioning of EU copyright laws in the Digital Single Market. The new policy would also cover the use of copyrighted audio visual content, including television and movies, the use of copyrighted content in teaching, and the republishing of scientific research content in various forms.