Publishers could be paid by Google and Facebook under new EU proposal

26 Aug 2016

The European Commission (EC) is planning a series of reforms that would allow online publishers to seek payment from services like Google and Facebook to establish what it calls an “equal footing”.

Over the past few years, the EU has had a strained relationship with major tech corporations like Google and Facebook over issues ranging from privacy to antitrust charges aimed in their direction.

Now, as part of its latest effort to limit these companies’ influence within Europe, the European Commission is drafting a series of proposals that could force Google, Facebook, etc, to pay digital publishers for hosting some of their content.

More specifically, services like Google News would have to pay publishers for using their content if they request payment.

According to documents seen by The Guardian, the draft proposals warn that the sustainability of the entire publishing industry is at stake and could result in “negative consequences on media pluralism, democratic debate and quality of information”.

The draft proposals argue that publishers of all sizes are still dwarfed by Google and Facebook making it “difficult for publishers to negotiate with them on an equal footing”.

Won’t be forced to pay

These proposals come following pressure from some of Europe’s largest publishers, who claim that, despite growing online readership, companies like Google et al are receiving the majority of online advertising revenue.

Publishers hope that such legislation would last for a minimum of 50 years, but the EC is hoping to convince them that a much smaller timescale of between one and five years would be a more feasible alternative.

However, online services would not be forced to pay out to publishers, as smaller publishers may prefer to keep their content online for free, with aims of getting greater exposure.

In 2014, Spain’s government introduced a copyright law that saw Google News shut down in the country due to the fact it would have been forced to pay publishers for hosting its content.

Soon after it was brought into effect, however, publishers saw an immediate and damaging drop in traffic to their websites.

Google Play Newstand image via dennizn/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic