EU is now giving Google new monopolies to the detriment of European citizens and Internet companies

andrus-ansip-and-gunther-oettinger-privacy-rules

Joint press conference by Andrus Ansip, Vice President of the EC, and Günther Oettinger, Member of the EC, on modern EU copyright rules. © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Jean-François Badias.

This article was exclusively written for The Sting by Mr Joe McNamee, Executive Director of  EDRi, the Brussels-based association of civil and human rights organisations from across Europe that defends rights and freedoms in the digital environment.

There is a lot of noise in the press and among lobbyists about an alleged hostility of the EU towards big American internet companies. Reality is more nuanced and more surprising – the policies appear to be hell-bent on giving Google new monopolies, to the detriment of European citizens and European internet companies.

The most astonishing of these policies is the proposal in the new Copyright Directive for mass, preventive filtering of information as it is being uploaded to the internet in Europe – a policy so restrictive and absurd that even China or Russia would baulk at the notion. An anti-Google measure? Hardly. Google actively lobbied the Vice-President of the European Commission about the alleged virtues of its content identification system (“contentID”), even if they hadn’t expected the Great Firewall of Europe to be the result.

andrus-ansip-tweet-data-privacyIf the proposal gets adopted, Google owns the ContentID technology, so would become the sole provider in a position to comply with the new rules without additional investment. Also, after investing tens of millions of dollars into developing the technology, it is uniquely placed to license such software to European internet providers. If European companies were obliged to adopt similar tools, they would be dependent on Google software or otherwise would have to invest high amounts to deploy a similar one – or risk getting sued for using less effective technology. Google currently uses contentID for ex post checks of uploads, allowing big content providers to delete users’ videos that include some copyrighted material, even if the material is fully compliant with copyright law.

The draft Directive is, unsurprisingly, somewhat incoherent. While imposing a general obligation to monitor uploads, it also indicates that an existing rule that prohibits a general obligation to monitor also stays in place. So, companies will have to invest in tools that have this functionality and will only have the opportunity, but possibly not the obligation (depending on how courts interpret the obtuse text of the Directive), to use it. It just happens that using this functionality gives them more safety from liability. As the rules are currently drafted, companies will have an obligation if they exceed an unspecified level of active engagement with the content.

In the same Directive, there is a proposal for a new “ancillary copyright,” whereby news outlets would be able to negotiate a fee for snippets of content to be used by services such as Google News or, possibly,Twitter – a policy often referred to as a “Google tax”. Hardly a pro-Google policy, right? Wrong. In Germany, where this policy has already been adopted, Google has the economic muscle to simply refuse to pay and suddenly it is not Google, but the publishers, who have a problem. Publishers put their content online in order for people to view it and to make money from advertising that is on their sites. They need Google News more than Google News needs them. So, the outcome is that everybody pays except Google. The Spanish government came up with a cunning plan, they passed a similar law to the one in Germany, but required Google News to pay. Result: Google News Spain shut down, to the detriment of smaller Spanish news outlets in particular and, again, everyone except Google loses.

The new legislative proposal is even worse than it seems. Despite the Commission’s best efforts, the EU recently adopted a world-leading Regulation that requires internet access companies to treat all internet traffic equally. Despite numerous complaints of discriminatory behaviour by the big online monopolies, no such obligation exists for Google to be non-discriminatory (i.e. not to sort content on the basis of its own business interests) in how it presents search results, ratings of businesses, news and so on. With the new copyright rules, Google will have a new legal obligation to have tools in place to interfere with content uploaded to its services, in real time, it will have a new legal obligation to agree (or not) to include news outlets in Google News. It is more than a little Faustian to believe that you do a deal to ask Google to be non-neutral, whenever this is to achieve whatever the European politicians want it to achieve and hope that Google will “do no evil” and not take advantage of its monopoly and legally mandated content regulation for its own benefit, to the detriment of European business, European citizens and the European online ecosystem.

Similarly, this Faustian deal, if adopted by the European Parliament and Council, would be to the detriment of freedom and democracy around the world. What credibility would Europe have when talking to Russia or China about online freedoms? Restrictions that have already been imposed, such as mass surveillance and data retention, are already thrown back at EU diplomats by foreign governments. Why, Beijing will ask, is the Great Firewall of China so bad, when this (from their perspective) implemented for the good of the society as a whole, when the Great Wall of Google is only designed to help a few copyright holders and, indirectly, Google itself.

Next stop for the proposal – approval, amendment or rejection by the European Parliament and the EU Member States. What should they say? In this bleak scenario, the words “Goethe” and “hell” spring to mind.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Our present and future tax payments usurped by banks

Why Italy will not follow the Greek road; Eurozone to change or unravel

Worldwide UN family celebrates enduring universal values of human rights

We are close yet so far…

China hopes EU Commissioner De Gucht drops super anti-dumping tariff on solar panels

Can the EU last long if it cuts Cyprus out?

Could Rwanda become Africa’s healthcare leader?

Do the EU policies on agro-food smell?

EU-UK: A deal synonymous to ‘remain’, England pays the Irish price

Court of Auditors: EU budget money is there to be spent not to create value

“BEUC cautions against TTIP that would seek to align EU and US chemicals management frameworks”

EU Top Jobs summit ended with no agreement: welcome to Europe’s quicksand!

A new bioeconomy strategy for a sustainable Europe

Window for a Brexit deal: Brussels to think again May’s proposal

MEPs react to breaches of human rights in Moldova, Burundi and Somalia

MWC 2016 LIVE: Telenor CEO calls on operators to embrace Mobile Connect initiative

European Commission recommends to the European Council (Article 50) to find that decisive progress has been made in Brexit negotiations

European Youth Capital 2019 announced: Novi Sad, Serbia

EU unveils plan to accelerate Capital Markets Union ahead of London’s departure from the bloc

7 key challenges for the future of ASEAN – and how to solve them

COP21 Breaking News_04 December: Launch of CREWS, climate risk & early warning systems

‘Dire consequences’ for a million children in the Middle East, North Africa, as funding dwindles

Dear China

Respect people’s peaceful assembly and fair trail rights, UN human rights wing urges Nicaragua

Despite funding crisis, Palestine refugee classrooms set to stay open, says UNRWA

How wealthy people transmit this advantage to their children and grand children

ECB should offer more and cheaper liquidity if Eurozone is to avoid recession

Aid teams respond to escalating southwest Syria conflict: 750,000 civilians are at risk

Social inclusion: how much should young people hope from the EU? 

Parliament adopts its position on digital copyright rules

To win combat against HIV worldwide, ‘knowledge is power’, says UNAIDS report

Africa’s inspiring innovators show what the future could hold

IMF: All you want to know about Argentina

EU’s Bank signs € 150 million loan to India as part of record investment in clean energy

Why Eurozone’s problems may end in a few months

Have central banks missed the exit train?

For how long will terror and economic stagnation be clouding the European skies?

Charlie’s tragedy energized deeper feelings amongst Europeans; back to basics?

Trump asked Merkel to pay NATO arrears and cut down exports ignoring the EU

We can’t tell if we’re closing the digital divide without more data

Erasmus+: an expected budget of €3 billion to be invested in young Europeans and to help create European Universities in 2019

UNICEF appeals for end to ‘war on children’ in Syria and Yemen

Economic sentiment and business climate stagnate in miserable euro area

UN chief condemns attack targeting international forces in northern Mali

Rule of law in Hungary: Parliament should ask Council to act, say committee MEPs

Budget MEPs approve €104.2 m in EU aid to Greece, Spain, France and Portugal

Lithuania vs Parliament over 2014 EU budget

Further reforms can foster more inclusive labour markets in The Netherlands

Banks suffocate the real economy by denying loans

EU’s new environmental policy on biofuels impacts both the environment and the European citizen

Northern Ireland: Parliament wants to secure post-Brexit regional funding

A Sting Exclusive: “Europe must be more ambitious in COP21 and lead on climate finance and sustainable development”, Green UK MEP Jean Lambert points out from Brussels

Russia and the West use the same tactics to dismember Ukraine

Campaign kicks off with High-level Event on #FairInternships

How dearly will Germany pay for the Volkswagen emissions rigging scandal

11 lessons the history of business can teach us about its future

IMF: How To Deal With Failed Banks

A Sting Exclusive: “Junior Enterprises themselves carry out projects focusing on the environment”, JADE President Daniela Runchi highlights from Brussels

Is Data Privacy really safe seen through Commissioner’s PRISM?

‘Passport to dignity’ that schools represent may expire fast, without emergency funding warns UN Palestine refugee agency

More Stings?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Originally published on The European Sting […]

  2. […] to artists (Ksat News) 15/09 EU Telecoms Proposals Stir Fierce Debate (TechWeek Europe UK) 16/09 EU is now giving Google new monopolies to the detriment of European citizens and Internet companies (The European Sting) 20/09 TiSA-Abkommen: Mehr Einfluss für Industrielobbyisten und weniger […]

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s