Link Tax: Will Google News Shut Down in Europe?

Link Tax: Will Google News Shut Down in Europe?

American tech giant Google has threatened to shut down its news service in Europe if EU authorities proceed with the so-called link tax.
 
As reported by CNBC, this new proposed European levy “grants publishers copyright over content that is shared online via Facebook or YouTube and applies to sites that aggregate articles such as Google News.”
 
The European Parliament passed it back in September 2018 with 438 votes in favor and 226 against.
 
According to Matt Reynolds for Wired, this rule, known as the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, “is currently bouncing between the European Commission, Council and Parliament who together will decide on its final wording before forwarding it to a final vote in the European Parliament in January 2019.”
 
If the EU were to go ahead with this piece of legislation, companies like “Google would have to compensate publishers when articles appear in search results on its news pages.”
 
More specifically, explains Brittany De Lea for Fox Business, “a link tax would charge internet companies, like Google, for posting links to press articles. The charges would take the form of licensing fees imposed via ancillary copyright, and would apply when a company included even a snippet from another publication with a link to the original text. It would also apply to media monitoring services, blogging, fact-checking services and potentially some headlines.”

Google Reacts to the EU’s Link Tax

Google was quick to react to the EU’s latest levy.
 
In an interview with The Guardian, Richard Gingras, Google’s News vice-president, said he wants to see changes in the proposed legislation’s language, as “it’s not desirable to shut down services.”
 
Back in 2014, Google closed its news service in Spain following an attempt by the local authorities to impose a similar tax.
 
Gingras added, “We would not like to see that happen in Europe. Right now what we want to do is work with stakeholders.”
 
Gingras also explained that Google News does not directly benefit from advertising.
 
“There’s no advertising in Google News. It is not a revenue-generating product to Google. We think it’s valuable as a service to society. We are proud to have it as part of the stable of properties that people have,” he said.
 
Following Gingras’ interview with The Guardian, a spokeswoman for the American tech giant reiterated the company’s position: “As Richard Gingras explained in his interview with The Guardian, there are several versions of the European copyright directive that are being discussed, and it's too early to speculate about how the final version of the directive would impact our products. We welcome the chance to work with policymakers and the industry to find a solution that benefits journalists and publishers — big and small, old and new.”

Opinions Vary on the EU’s Link Tax

As is usual with most new levies, opinions on the EU’s link tax vary greatly.
 
Back in May, the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) expressed its support for the proposed legislation.
 
“Very profitable companies, like Facebook and Google, offer users qualified news reporting from publishers including news agencies, but they do not offer a fair return for this usage,” the EANA said.
 
MEP Julia Reda, on the other hand, has been fighting this tax since the get-go. 
 
“I think we need to have fundamental opposition to this idea of introducing the link tax in the first place,” she says.
 
Furthermore, she argues, “The biggest fight between Parliament and Council is how much can be included before this link tax applies.”
 
As reported by Wired’s Reynolds, “the European Council argues that even a single word could be protected by copyright, while the Council errs on the side of allowing individual governments to decide which parts of an article should be protected. Some, for example, argue that statements of fact shouldn't be copyrighted whereas original, creative, statements should be.”
 
Ultimately, Phil Sherrell, head of international media, entertainment and sport at Bird & Bird, believes this new rule will not be significantly altered.
 
“However it is implemented, it is clearly intended to impose an obligation on news aggregators to pay publishers,” Sherrell said.
 
“I don’t think that the form of implementation of this article will matter much to Google News; their service is very likely to be caught.”
 
Sherrell believes “the EU has been clear that this about trying to create additional revenue for the EU publishing industry, much of which is financially struggling.”
 
What are your thoughts on the viability of the EU’s link tax? Let us know below with a comment!
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