Google calls for reconsideration of EU's new copyright rules

The company insists that draft would slow down Europe’s entire digital sector and creative economy

Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker

With the European Parliament due to vote this month on the final approval of EU's new Copyright Directive, Google warned that the proposed Digital Single Market rules, specifically Article 13 of the directive, will result in the over-blocking of content and the punishment of smaller publishers more than bigger fish like itself, hurting Europe for "decades to come".

Writing a blog post, entitled One Steps Forward, Two Steps Back, Google’s Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker, stressed that even though platforms acting in good faith won’t be penalised every time a user uploads a piece of copyrighted content, unspecified limitations eventually mean that publishers and platforms without deep pockets will likely be overly cautious since it could be impossible for them to bear the financial costs of a possible legal prosecution or creation of their own system for tracking irregularities (Google claims that it’s spent over $100m on developing and running Content ID)

“This would be bad for creators and users, who will see online services wrongly block content simply because they need to err on the side of caution and reduce legal risk,” Walker insisted, adding that these "unintended consequences" may "hurt Europe's creative economy for decades to come."

Another bone of contention that Google warns against is a provision to create "neighbouring rights" - that opponents call a link tax - for media publishers. Many news organisations, including AFP, have pushed for the move, arguing that giants like Facebook and Google make billions in revenue from advertising tied to news stories, while publishers suffer.

And the EU has consistently affirmed that there would be exemptions for smaller publishers and platforms, with Axel Voss MEP for the European People’s Party, saying: “If you don’t have a ten million [Euro] global turnover, or if you have not more than five million unique monthly visitors, then you are a little bit exempted from this Article 13.” Newer companies, which have been operating for less than three years, are also likely to be exempted from having to obtain authorisation from rights holders or proactively filter content, although upon receipt of a takedown notice issued by a court order (or equivalent), all these companies must comply, as they would now.

Yet. Walker insisted that the planned reform, despite having progress, would nevertheless "hurt small and emerging publishers, and limit consumer access to a diversity of news sources."

"Under the directive, showing anything beyond mere facts, hyperlinks and 'individual words and very short extracts' would be restricted. This narrow approach will create uncertainty, and again may lead online services to restrict how much information from press publishers they show to consumers," he warned, adding that "cutting the length of snippets will make it harder for consumers to discover news content and reduce overall traffic to news publishers, as a Google research has shown.

''The details matter, so we urge policy makers to take these concerns into consideration ahead of the decisive vote and in the implementation phase that follows," Walker concludes.

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