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EU plans search engine news levy

News, 29 August 2016

BRUSSELS: News organisations in Europe could be given the right to demand fees from internet giants such as Google and Facebook in exchange for showing extracts of their content, according to new European Commission (EC) proposals.

The measures, which will be put out to consultation in September, are aimed at strengthening the rights of content creators and diluting the power of big online operators, the Guardian reported.

EC officials argue that the market share built up by large digital operators in areas like search gives them an unbalanced bargaining position in negotiations with European publishers.

"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 EC said in its draft proposal.

According to the Guardian, the EC wants to give news publishers the exclusive right to make their content available to the public, and to reproduce it for digital purposes.

This means that companies like Google could face demands to pay a fee for using selections of their content – for example, in aggregators like Google News.

Publishers would reportedly like the ability to charge for use of content to last for 50 years, although the EC is looking at a much shorter period of between one and five years, given the short-lived nature of news.

But the proposals will not oblige publishers to demand fees from digital platforms. This is partly because publishers may choose to continue to offer their content free of charge in order to increase reach.

It is also a recognition that previous attempts to force Google to pay for aggregating news stories did not work out in Germany and Spain.

In Germany, many publishers decided not to demand a charge after witnessing big drops in traffic. In Spain, Google simply shut down its Spanish version of Google News when faced with a mandatory fee.

Data sourced from the Guardian; additional content by Warc staff