mfioretti: ancillary copyright*

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  1. Google doesn’t generally make money from Google News itself, because it doesn’t place advertisements in the service (though it does of course place ads in its main search service, where results are sometimes augmented with Google News results). In contrast, ancillary copyright destroys the entire business model of small aggregation startups. CEDRO, Spain’s equivalent to VG Media in this arena, recently decided that aggregators should pay €0.05 per user per day in ancillary copyright fees – for the popular local aggregation startup Menéame, this works out as 20 times the company’s turnover. Obviously, this is completely untenable for a small business.

    So, given the German and Spanish experiences, what is the push for ancillary copyright actually trying to achieve? On the face of it, the aim is to get Google to pay publishers for sending readers to their articles. This is in itself a very strange idea, as publishers get to make money from showing ads to those readers, but let’s take it at face value for a moment. Even if Google were to continue to use those snippets, and if it started to pay those fees, the law would kill its small, European competitors in the news aggregation space – no-one would invest in them, because their businesses would haemorrhage money. Wealthy Google, if it stayed in the space, would end up dominating the EU news aggregation market even more than it does now.

    But this isn’t going to happen. Google is not going to start paying anyone to link to their online content, because that would be the beginning of the end for Google’s core business model – a win-win situation where the company benefits from being the gatekeeper for the public’s attention, and linked-to sites benefit from the traffic Google freely sends them.

    Günther Oettinger has claimed that the might of a pan-EU law would force Google to open its coffers, but he’s wrong. Nobody can force a company to engage in a line of business that will lose it money. If pushed, Google would undoubtedly do across the EU what it did in Spain: shut down Google News. This may benefit the traditional press publishers that hate online competition – and perhaps this is why they, with their vast offline marketing budgets, have lobbied so hard for an EU ancillary copyright law. But it would cause infinite harm to smaller European publishers and the innovative European startups that are trying to develop cleverer ways of connecting publishers with their readers.

    There are many flaws in Article 11 as proposed – its vague wording could penalise social media users; there’s no guarantee that journalists themselves would benefit from the fees; and it could lead to the last two decades of journalism becoming less accessible to the public. But even if the wording were tweaked, the basic concept remains fundamentally flawed. Nobody would benefit, apart from the handful of large press publishers that are trying to turn back the clock to protect their bottom lines.

    There’s no doubt that the news industry is in crisis, nor that digitalisation is largely to blame. It’s a deeply complex problem, and solutions are urgently needed. But ancillary copyright is not one of those solutions. If anything, it would hold back the innovation that’s so desperately needed to rescue the industry – innovation that might come not from Google, but from the bright minds in the EU.
    http://copybuzz.com/copyright/ancillary-copyright-poison-not-cure
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