Wednesday 14 November 2018

Technology giants face payouts to media firms in EU copyright battle

Members of the European Parliament take part in a vote on modifications to EU copyright reforms during a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Members of the European Parliament take part in a vote on modifications to EU copyright reforms during a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Technology firms such as Facebook would have to share more of their revenue with the publishers of content used online under a shake-up of copyright rules.

The European Parliament has backed a law that would help media, video, music and other rights holders seek compensation for use of their content online.

It was hailed as a win for the media industry which has suffered a dramatic loss of revenue to technology giants, who often piggyback on work paid for by publishers.

The European Commission, which began the debate two years ago, says the overhaul is necessary to protect Europe's cultural heritage and create a level playing field between big online platforms and publishers, broadcasters and artists.

It will have to be backed by the European Commission and national governments before it can take effect.

Ed McCann, the Group Managing Editor at Independent News & Media, which publishes the Irish Independent and other leading Irish titles, said: "This is an important first step. The European Parliament has recognised the crucial role of journalism as a force for good in society.

Welcome: French President Emanuel Macron was happy with the vote. AP Photo
Welcome: French President Emanuel Macron was happy with the vote. AP Photo

"This has been harnessed by social media giants with no return for publishers who incur the costs. This can't continue."

At the European Parliament, 438 MEPs voted in favour while 226 were against the plan, with 39 abstentions. The next step is negotiating with the Commission and the 28 EU countries to reconcile their different positions before existing copyright laws are amended, with a final vote expected next year.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the vote was a "great advance for Europe", while the Commission's digital chief, Andrus Ansip, said it sent a strong and positive signal of a reform designed to protect EU researchers, educators, writers, media and cultural heritage institutions.

The Federation of European Film Directors (FERA), the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe (FSE) and the Society of Audiovisual Authors (SAA) also welcomed the vote.

Google, however, called it a disappointing outcome.

"It's bad for creators, for entrepreneurs and for innovators," said Google's chief business officer, Philipp Schindler.

Web browser company Mozilla said the fight was not over. "We at Mozilla will do everything we can to achieve a modern reform that safeguards the health of the internet and promotes the rights of users. There's simply too much at stake not to," the firm said.

European consumer body BEUC also criticised the vote.

"It is beyond comprehension that time and again EU policy makers refuse to bring copyright law into the 21st century. Consumers nowadays express themselves by sampling, creating and mixing music, videos and pictures, then sharing their creations online," said Monique Goyens, BEUC director general.

Julia Reda, from the European Pirate Party, which had favoured more moderate reforms, said changes to a tough line adopted by a key parliamentary committee were merely cosmetic and two measures could endanger the freedom of the internet.

One could force Google, Microsoft and others to pay publishers for displaying news snippets. However, snippet taxes introduced in Spain and Germany in the past had the opposite effect, with publishers reported plunging traffic to their sites.

The other measure would require online platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to install filters to prevent users from uploading copyrighted materials, which critics say could lead to censorship.

"By endorsing new legal and technical limits on what we can post and share online, the European Parliament is putting corporate profits over freedom of speech and abandoning long-standing principles that made the internet what it is today," Ms Reda said.

Irish Independent

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