EU Targets Big Tech with New Copyright Rules

Posted on February 14, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Cloud, Google, Social with 25 Comments

In a blow to giant US tech firms, the European Union has reached a provisional agreement to dramatically alter its copyright rules. Under the terms of the agreement, content publishers gain strong new rights and protections against firms that “scrape” content and share it without paying the owner.

“The directive introduces mandatory exceptions to copyright for the purposes of text and data mining, online teaching activities and the preservation and online dissemination of cultural heritage,” a European Council press release explains. “The directive introduces a new right for press publishers for the digital use of their press publications. Authors of works incorporated in the press publication in question will be entitled to a share of the press publisher’s revenue deriving from this new right.”

In other words, companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, and others won’t be able to simply republish others work, as they do today, without first obtaining permission from the content creators and then paying them for that work. These new rules will impact all kinds of online content, including news reporting, music, videos, and more. And it will impact some of the biggest and most popular websites and services, including Google Search, Instagram, and YouTube.

Individual European states have tried to curb this kind of theft for years, but tech firms have typically responded by pulling services from those countries. For example, when Spain complained about Google stealing news stories from Spanish publications, the search giant simply stopped offering Google News in Spain.

Individual publishers have seen even harsher remedies, as Reuters noted: When German publisher Axel Springer tried to prevent Google from reusing its news, traffic to the site mysteriously fell off a cliff. It’s almost like Google’s search results aren’t entirely organic.

The new rules are provisional and need to be confirmed by EU member states. But that is widely expected to happen without any drama.

“Today’s agreement is a sign of our determination to set up a well-functioning digital single market that encourages the development of new content-based businesses in the interest of all European citizens,” Romanian Minister for Culture and National Identity Valer Daniel Breaz says in the EC press release. “We will therefore unlock the opportunities of the digital world, both for creators, whose rights should be fully respected and for the European citizens, who should take advantage of the benefits brought by the Digital Single Market.”

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