Friday, August 26, 2016

Europe is Planning to Allow News Sites to Demand Payment From Search Engines

Europe plans to give media companies the power to demand payment from search engines like Google when snippets of their content are republished.

The European Commission is is working on a significant overhaul of copyright law that aims to help level the playing field between news outlets and tech giants like Google and Facebook, The Financial Times reported.

But the move threatens to further heighten tensions between the European authorities and Silicon Valley companies, which are locked in disputes on the continent over everything from tax to competition law.

"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," the draft proposals say.

The move could see media companies begin to charge Google for showing snippets of their articles in its Google News feature, a powerful source of traffic for the companies. But it's unclear what Google's response would be: In Spain, after a similar measure was introduced, it removed the feature in the country — sparking a drop in traffic of up to 14% for some publications.

Google declined to comment.

Henry Blodget asks the obvious question:

Search engines are marketing billboards in most cases. How exactly would it work if there was a law that demanded that billboard owners pay advertisers?

It is a non-coercive option so it doesn't interfere with anyone's freedom. Indeed, it appears to actually expand property rights and the ability set the terms of exchange, but it is difficult to see how this will become operational in most cases.

(via Business Insider)


  1. If I ran a search engine like Google I would simply say, "Fine, we won't index your 'news' site anymore. Good luck getting traffic."

  2. It will be useful in bad faith persecution of companies by adding arbitrary "violations" that can be dredged up to inflict damage and gain compliance, which is the main reason most of these laws exist. This one is pretty dumb, though, in that it isn't really a good tent seeking strategy.

    1. Its as dumb as Blodgett stating that passing a law is a "non-coercive option". Commerce without coercion is the only rational action between merchant.

  3. ─ Indeed, it appears to actually expand property rights and the ability set the terms of exchange, but it is difficult to see how this will become operational in most cases. ─

    Maybe the reason why it is difficult to see how this can become operational in most cases is because I.P. has NOTHING to do with property rights.

    Besides this, the lingering question that wasn't answered when reading the piece is: if these snippets the search engines link to are property, why don't news companies simply bill Google and Bing and others every time these search engines publish their snippets rather than wait for the government to do the dirty job for them?

    Could it be because OTHER competing news outlets would just sit down and enjoy the spectacle of these news organizations making fools of themselves and giving away the market to their competition? Could it not be then that these laws are not meant to "extend" property rights but to impose this scheme on the competition, not unlike how Henry Paulson threatened perfectly solvent banks if they didn't take bailout money?

    And do you think that these competing news outlets will be allowed to opt out of charging for their content? You can bet your sweet patootie the government already has that covered and would simply accuse these outlets of anti-competitive activities, which means they would have to charge a MINIMUM charge regardless of their wishes or business model.

    IP has NOTHING to do with property. It has been and continues to be a scheme to create a class of rent-seekers, nothing more.

  4. Dumb, dumb bureaucrats. Fine, Google makes indexing opt-in. News orgs that opt-in get traffic, news orgs that don't are shut out. Hope they're happy!

    I wouldn't be surprised if this leads to a next-stage mandate that Google *must* include all news orgs equally *and* must pay for their inclusion. Massachusetts did it with Uber and taxis, why not with newspapers?