Europe's news agencies blast Google, Facebook for 'plundering' content

European Parliament lawmakers are to debate a new copyright law that would force internet giants to pay more for creative conten
European Parliament lawmakers are to debate a new copyright law that would force internet giants to pay more for creative content used on their platforms

Europe's biggest news agencies accused Google and Facebook of "plundering" news for free on Tuesday in a joint statement that called on the internet giants to share more of their revenues with the media.

In a column signed by the CEOs of around 20 agencies including France's Agence France-Presse, Britain's Press Association and Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur they called on the European Parliament to update copyright law in the EU to help address a "grotesque imbalance".

"The ' plundering of the news media's content and of their advertising revenue poses a threat both to consumers and to democracy," the column said.

European Parliament lawmakers are to set to debate a new this month that would force the giants to pay more for creative content used on their platforms such as news, music or movies.

A first draft of the law was rejected in July and the plans have been firmly opposed by US tech firms, as well as advocates of internet freedom who fear that the regulations could lead to higher costs for consumers.

"Can the titans of the internet compensate the media without asking people to pay for access to the internet, as they claim they would be forced to? The answer is clearly 'yes'," the column said.

The joint statement from the agencies, which are major suppliers of news, photos and video, said Facebook reported revenues of $40 billion (34 billion euros) in 2017 and profits of $16 billion, while Google made $12.7 billion on sales of $110 billion.

"Who could reasonably argue that they are not in a position to make fair payment for the content they use?" the agencies asked.

"What we are really talking about is introducing a fair payment by those who have ripped off the news. For the sake of Europe's free press and democratic values, EU lawmakers should press ahead with copyright reform," they added.

'Neighbouring rights'

The column marks a new lobbying effort by media groups, backed by artists such as Paul McCartney, to sway European lawmakers as they prepare for a second vote on September 12.

The fight is over two parts of the planned law.

The first is Article 13, which would make platforms like Google-owned YouTube legally liable for copyrighted material to prevent content producers from seeing their work posted without pay.

The second is Article 11, which would create a so-called "neighbouring right" meaning that newspapers, magazines and news agencies would have to be paid when Google or other websites link to their stories.

"Without paying for it, internet giants such as Google and Facebook use vast quantities of news that is produced at great cost by press publishers and agencies," added the joint statement on Tuesday.

Critics argue that the reform would lead to blanket censorship by tech platforms because of copyright problems, reducing their role as a hub for creativity, especially YouTube.

They say it would also restrict the usage of memes and remixes by everyday internet users who often use content without securing the rights.

The column was signed by the heads of TT in Sweden, STT in Finland, Belgium's Belga and APA from Austria, as well as other media groups across the European continent.

Explore further

Leading journalists join call for EU copyright reform

© 2018 AFP

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User comments

Sep 04, 2018
I have been a Facebook user for about 6 years now, and what hooked me to it initially was the ability to have feeds of news from all over the world.
If I recall it well, Facebook does not re-post any news; it simply links to the originating article and I decide or not to click on it to be taken to the actual content website.
This being the case, I like to believe that the industry actually profits from this linkage. Should it not exist, I would never get to know about those news.
The clickarama (overly advertised links) on many sites keeps me from, many times, staying in the original content provider. I go in and, within seconds, close it out because I see more "make-me-money" than actual content.
As a matter of fact, there has been numerous cases in which I have been "requested" to watch a 45 seconds advertising clip before I get to see a 15 seconds real content.
If any legislation should pass, it should be about the "legal" amount of advertising in any content web page.

Sep 04, 2018
I don't understand the argument by news sources that they want to be paid for links to their content. The links drive people to their content where their advertising generates money for them.

Is it just greed that they want more? If Google and other search engines stopped linking to them, their visitors and revenue would plummet.

So far as artists are concerned, the profits go to the companies who collect their pittance and distribute part of the collection. The artists make almost nothing on content. Most make their money on concerts or other direct performances.

Sep 05, 2018
News agencies are obsolete. RIP.

But theyre not going peacefully are they?

Sep 06, 2018
These people are idiots. They get more web hits by being linked to sites like Google than if they had 100 sites of their own. Google no longer allows full resolution view of images from sites, you have to visit the site.

Sep 10, 2018
It is an interesting argument that content providers should get paid more for their content. That isn't an argument that I have the knowledge to address. But penalizing internet companies for providing summaries with links to those content providers over and above normal copyright fees is simply anti-technology.

Media companies live and die from their readership. It is a tough argument to make that providing more access to readers harms them.

Sep 13, 2018
This is a deliberate stampede of politicians by the few influential celebrity artists and authors complaining of failure to be properly compensated for their creativity.

In all honesty, the creative should be complaining about the outrageous exploitation of their production. By their publishers, agents, business managers, producers, recording conglomerates, etc.

So the celebrities complain, the pols react like galvanized frog legs and the result is to attack the carriers of signal. Cause the messenger is always to blame for bad news. Right?

Why not blame and demand an honest accounting of the actual exploiters? Cause it's in the contracts. A artist or author under contract can be severely financially punished for publicly complaining about their publishers, agency or record company.

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