Google Lashes Out at New EU Copyright Rules

Posted on March 4, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Google with 22 Comments

Google has issued a public rebuttal to recently proposed copyright rules that are aimed specifically at big American tech firms.

“Having studied the final text of the new copyright directive, we agree that the directive would not help, but rather hold back, Europe’s creative and digital economy,” Google senior vice president Kent Walker writes in a post to the firm’s Google in Europe blog. “This [directive] hurts small and emerging publishers, and limits consumer access to a diversity of news sources.”

As you may recall, the EU’s European Council in February 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 like Google that routinely “scrape” content and share it without paying the owner. If passed as law, which is widely expected, this change would prevent companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, and others from republishing the work other others, as they do today, without first obtaining permission from the content creators and then paying them for that work.

That sounds reasonable. But it also completely undermines how big American tech firms collect and then republish information from their own sites and services. Which is, of course, the point.

“The directive creates vague, untested requirements, which are likely to result in online services over-blocking content to limit legal risk,” Walker continues. “And services like YouTube accepting content uploads with unclear, partial, or disputed copyright information could still face legal threats … Article 13 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 risks … Under the directive, showing anything beyond mere facts, hyperlinks and ‘individual words and very short extracts’ will 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. Cutting the length of snippets will make it harder for consumers to discover news content and reduce overall traffic to news publishers.”

In an interesting twist, Google also attacks what it feels is a re-defining of what it means to be a journalist, or “press publisher.” This is a familiar topic today, where even the least-experienced blogger or podcast can incorrectly describe themselves as a “journalist” or “reporter” when they are really just amateurs or paid mouth-pieces for companies or industry groups.

“The directive’s definition of what counts as a ‘press publisher’ could well be interpreted too broadly, including anything from travel guides to recipe websites, diluting any benefits for those who gather and distribute the kinds of news most central to the democratic process,” Google writes.

Google’s complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears given that it was Google’s behavior that led to this directive. It exists explicitly to stop Google from stealing content from content creators and then punishing those that try to prevent it from doing so.

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Comments (22)

22 responses to “Google Lashes Out at New EU Copyright Rules”

  1. RonV42

    The last line says it all.  Google made the bed and now they have to sleep in it....

    • wright_is

      In reply to RonV42:

      Exactly, YouTube especially was built up on serving copyright infringing material. They knew that and did everything they could in the USA to hide behind tricks to ensure that they could keep earning advertising revenue off of the "illegal" content, instead of investing money on ensuring that the material being uploaded was the uploader's own material and they had the rights to upload it.

      Instead of putting the checks-and-balances in place when they were small and building it up with the platform, they decided lawyers were cheaper than programmers and lost revenue from infringing material and now they are faced with a huge revenue dip plus a huge investment to get YouTube to be where it should have been from the get-go.

      The problem is, their propaganda has touched a nerve with many who haven't actually read and understood the directive, but have just read Google's "interpretation" of its meaning and they are up in arms as well, whereas, from what I read, if you are uploading original content and stay within the confines for "fair use", which don't sound very different to the US interpretation of fair use, at least at first glance, there isn't a real problem - unless Google mess up their filter implementation; which given their track record of deliberately misinterpreting "the right to be forgotten", it wouldn't surprise me if the filter was "overly aggresive", just to make a point.

      • lvthunder

        In reply to wright_is:

        How is Google supposed to know who has permission to post what? It's an impossible task. If someone makes a claim that something is theirs then Google can get evidence from both sides and make a determination, but they can't possibly know before it's posted.


        Maybe Google will just turn YouTube off in the EU.

        • wright_is

          In reply to lvthunder:

          That is a problem that YouTube should have worked out nearly 20 years ago, it was the most obvious component they had to add to YouTube on day one. They have had ample time to get this right, but instead they have tried to get around taking any responsibility for their actions, so they could maximize income.

          I'm sorry, I just don't have any sympathy for them.

          They need to ensure that they have a digital equivalent of an affidavit from the uploader that the media is their own work, if it isn't they can prove that they were lied to and the uploader can be identified and sued. Of course that would mean registered accounts for uploaders.

          Some form of watermarking on the uploaders video.

          There are lots of ways of doing this and Google had years to get this right, while its platform was still small and scale it up. Now they have to come up with a solution at scale, which will probably cost them more that it would have done, if they had done it right would from the beginning, if they had been a responsible Internet citizen, we wouldn't be having this argument.

  2. locust infested orchard inc

    Google's backlash against the EU is symptomatic of a once spoilt child who grew up doing things its way, rejecting and steamrolling the opinions of others and those that were openly vocal against it. But now at an age of exactly 20½ years old today, it has reached adulthood wrongly believing it can continue as it always has done, without any regard for the rule of law or the decision of the law-makers.


    Had Google been given several doses of discipline as it flourished in the noughties, Google might have become a more morally and ethically responsible company. Two decades of unchecked behaviour has allowed Google to become the sanctimonious beast that it is, continually being fed by its pervasive data-guzzling, violation of the rights of the content creators, and the of serving of ads to everyone everywhere regardless of device.

  3. truerock2

    I manage a small startup operation. I pay Google to have my company show up in their search results. So, I guess just about everyone wants to show up in Google search results... but, not with so much context that they don't need to go to my website?


    It would be easy to establish a standard html tag that would specify a web site as not allowing search engines to include it in search results.


    • wright_is

      In reply to truerock2:

      It is called robots.txt and has been around since the year dot.

      The problem, for most, isn't having a search result, it is having enough of the story appearing on Google News that visitors no longer click through, because they received enough information from the snippet Google showed.

      The Google search result with a short teaser is fine, the argument was against too much of a snippet being shown.

      But when I look at Google News in Germany, it is just a list of headlines, and you click through to the original story - I only looked at Google News for the first time today, so I don't know if it has already been adjusted...

    • locust infested orchard inc

      Quote by truerock2, "It would be easy to establish a standard html tag that would specify a web site as not allowing search engines to include it in search results."


      What you describe already exists in the form of the robots exclusion standard (robots.txt). It is a standard used by websites to inform web-crawlers and other web-bots, specifying which areas of the website should not be processed or scanned (hence not appearing in search results).


      The robots.txt is a plain text file residing at the root of a website, which consists of one or more rules. Each rule blocks (or allows) access for a given web-crawler to a specified file path in that website.

  4. locust infested orchard inc

    Headline quote, "Google Lashes Out at New EU Copyright Rules"


    ...whilst I'll persist to lash out at the same old Google.

  5. nicholas_kathrein

    Paul's last paragraph maybe true but all that is going to happen is death to everything that involves this. Also as in Spain I think it was with "Snippets" with news sites that this will hurt the country not help it.

  6. AnOldAmigaUser

    Someone needs to take Google management back to the woodshed and beat some sense into them.

  7. warren

    "This is a familiar topic today, where even the least-experienced blogger or podcast can incorrectly describe themselves as a “journalist” or “reporter” when they are really just amateurs"


    You mean like Mehedi? He's a comp-sci student, not even graduated.


    Or is that getting a little too real?


    When you look around the tech industry, it really is pretty incredible how many people are working daily to cover tech news that have no educational background or training in journalism. Guys like Tom Warren and Ed Bott aren't trained pros, they got where they did through sheer repetition. And guys like Lewis Hilsenteger (Unbox Therapy) went to an art school to study photography..... but millions of people look to him for tech news. MJF is a proper journalist, but that seems like the exception rather than the rule.


    Even comparatively fluffy areas like sports journalism holds itself to a higher professional standard than this.


    It's so weird.

    • wright_is

      In reply to warren:

      History is full of journalists who never went to journalism school. They started out in other industries and ended up reporting on those industries. But they still needed to get themselves accredited as a journalist.

      Nowadays anyone with an internet connection can claim to be a "journalist", but they don't know the rules and therefore don't adhere to them.

      A lot of them pretty much copy and paste stories wholesale from elsewhere. Is making them take some responsbility for what they "write" and ensuring it is original a bad thing?

      • locust infested orchard inc

        In reply to wright_is:


        The only rule in journalism is the art of sensationalism.


        Post an enticing headline (regardless of the validity of the truth), and post a provocative image, and the website will attract vastly more hits than on average, leading to greater page views, thus more ad clicks.


        As long as journalism is conjoined to advertising, the journalistic reporting of the offending site cannot be wholly trusted.

    • locust infested orchard inc

      In reply to warren:


      With both print and local journalism on the decline, we no longer live in an age where is it mandatory to be a graduate in journalism to become a roving reporter.


      Living in a meritocratic society gives opportunities to those who may not necessarily have the credentials on paper to meet a checklist of set requirements for any given job description, though can articulate themselves through their deft performance.


      I therefore hold the opinion that a tech-savvy individual with an understanding of at least the fundamentals of, computing, networking, operating systems, and programming, holds far more value in IT journalism than one who has acquired a qualification in journalism.


      The ability to express oneself coherently and succinctly can be acquired without having studied either journalism of English language/literature, but the knowledge and understanding of IT does require at least several years of perseverance. Hence the formal IT individual is better suited to IT journalism.


      Mehedi Hassan who I believe is studying a computer-related degree, is performing admirably in bringing the latest hot IT consumer-related news to Thurrott.com in a timely fashion, and is a the ideal chap for summarising the consumer tech news with his strong background in computing.


      I personally find Mehedi is to the point, without needlessly indulging too much into the story, making for a quick read, to grasp the underlying news.


      Conversely, Paul enjoys the lengthier prose (it shows in his writing), where he has the scope to discuss his (more often than not) well-thought assessments and predictions of the direction of a given product. Paul also has the artful ability to introduce what some may view as controversial statements, which I believe is a premeditated journalist thing to ensure we the readers feel obliged to comment, thereby retaining a strong reader-base / premium member-base.


      All in all, Thurrott.com is certainly an invaluable source of the latest triumphs of Microsoft, and the constant missteps of Apple, Google, Facebook, etc, with an often opinionated comment section, though the commenting system leaves a lot to be desired – I wonder if a return to using Disqus may be considered, or alternatively self-hosting the comments using wpDiscuz ?

  8. Daekar

    Controlling the power of the content aggregation companies is going to take some legislation with serious teeth. This might be it, it might not. But it has a better chance than anything else I've seen proposed.

  9. MikeGalos

    Gee. Google will have to stop stealing intellectual property and then using it as bait for eyeballs to sell to their advertising customers.


    I don't have a problem with that.

  10. joshhuggins

    I am pretty sure this can be handled with a quick update to the terms of use. Not much will change I'd bet.

  11. bob_shutts

    This will be devastating for YouTube (which of course is Google).

  12. JerryH

    So a snippet isn't republishing the content. It will be interesting to see the traffic to EU sites go down if this passes. I mean really, when you do say a Google search for say "Tesla" are you going to click the link that has a snippet saying something interesting like "Tesla to close showrooms, go to 100% online sales" or the link that says "EU Times"?

  13. brduffy

    It seems like the argument Google is making is that consumers will be hurt because they won't have access to all the free stuff they have been making available to them without the owners consent. Its hard to argue with the EU on this one, even if it means we'll lose certain content access.

  14. red.radar


    Curious to see how this shakes out. However, google has clever lawyers I am willing to bet they find the loop hole here. And its just going to annoy and upset the EU regulators to no end.








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