As the EU continues to discuss and negotiate over the EU Copyright Directive, most of the attention is focused on the mandatory filters of Article 13, but the tax on news aggregators in Article 11 remains equally problematic. Last week, Google apparently started experimenting with showing a barren news search results page to demonstrate what Google News would look like if it complied with Article 11… and it basically would look like your internet connection was broken and Google News didn’t load properly:
In response, the giant EU news publishers — who are the ones pushing heavily for Article 11 and who think that it will somehow magically force Google to rain down cash into their bank accounts — started whining that this was a publicity stunt and “scaremongering.”
The suggestion that Google would roll out this type of product doesn’t seem a serious one, according to four publishing trade bodies the European Publishers Council, the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the European Magazine Media Association and News Media Europe, which allege this is “much more likely a way of scaremongering.”
[….] “[Google] wants to portray a doomsday scenario that would never happen,” she added. “It’s an interpretation that is distorted in order to provide a picture which makes it look worse than it is. Publishers have rights and can give those rights away. It’s just legal clarity to enforce those rights if you want to do, they are not obliged to comply.”
But… nearly all of that is incorrect. First of all, that result absolutely could happen. As we noted, when a similar law passed in Germany, Google ended up posting their results without context like that, leading German publishers to eventually agree to “license” the ability to post snippets… for nothing. And when a similar law passed in Spain (which barred free licensing), Google shut down Google News in Spain.
And… now it says it may do the same in all of the EU if Article 11 becomes law:
Google News might quit the continent in response to the directive, said Jennifer Bernal, Google’s public policy manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The internet company has various options, and a decision to pull out would be based on a close reading of the rules and taken reluctantly, she said.
Given that it already used this option in Spain, it’s not hard to see it doing so for the entire EU.
It truly is bizarre that the publishers keep pushing this same bad solution and somehow magically expecting better results. Once again, the publishers are absolutely free to make use of robots.txt and remove themselves from Google’s search results if they don’t feel it’s providing value in the traffic. But they don’t do that. Indeed, I’d bet that nearly all of these big publishers that are pushing for Article 11 hire “search engine optimizers” to help them get more traffic from Google. What they’re now demanding is not only that Google give them more traffic… but that Google also pay them… to send them traffic. This is entirely nonsensical.
But it might soon become the law in the EU and Google would be smart to shut down Google News entirely, rather than give in to what is little more than an attempt at bureaucratic extortion, pushing a successful company to pay out money to old media giants who sat around and refused to adapt to the internet.