New EU Copyright Rules Set to Shake-Up Major Media Outlets

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By Alexander Muir

Publishers, musicians and TV producers could soon discover an easier way to make money from use of their work on YouTube, Google News and Facebook.

The EU is proposing strict new copyright rules aimed at making it easier for those involved in the creative industries such as musicians, directors and producers to generate wealth out of their work online. The new rules threaten to hit Google the hardest, which could in turn affect the other media giants YouTube and Google News, as the new rules would result in higher pay-out’s for hosting content or showing parts of it online.

Contained in proposals from the European Commission, the new rules for an updated copyright directive would make it a requirement of video sites like YouTube to quickly remove or get authorisation for copyrighted videos, and strengthen the negotiating position of rights holders.

Many working in media outlets and the music, film and TV industries hold Google partly to blame for lost revenues from issues such as piracy, and many have made clear their anguish at the lack of solid legal principles around the issue.

In particular, in the past artists and their record labels have expressed their anger at YouTube, suggesting that the site has created a ‘value gap,’ continuing to state that the company has failed to compensate the artists for music streamed over its platform, arguing that it hides behind “safe harbour” rules governing content uploaded by users.

YouTube and other sites would have an “obligation to deploy effective means such as technology to automatically detect songs or audiovisual works,” though YouTube has been commended for their efforts in this area in the past.

The directive also offers hope for online news publishers, some of which have been vocal in their criticism of firms such as Google for increasing their own net worth, at the expense of the owners of the content. New rules will recognise “the key role press publishers play in terms of investments in and overall contribution to the creation of quality journalistic content,” providing them with a stronger foundation to make aggregators such as Google News pay for republishing all or part of their article.

The new proposals still have to be approved by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers and are likely to take 9-12 months to come into force. The European commission also said it was looking at ways to improve enforcement of rules including tackling the ongoing issue of digital advertising companies using ads that host content that violates copyright, and companies that process payments for sites that charge for access.

Caroline Atkinson, Google’s vice president for global policy, said the company disagreed with the proposed approach, arguing that “innovation and partnership – not subsidies and onerous restrictions – are the key to a successful, diverse and sustainable news sector in the EU.” She later went on to say that “for both European creators and consumers, it’s vital to preserve the principles of linking, sharing and creativity on which so much of the web’s success is built. The appropriate balance has not yet been struck, and Google is committed to playing its part in the discussions.” This issue is set to bubble away until the EU come back with clear and reformed policy proposals, however no matter what happens, it is clear that reform is needed to save smaller companies from destruction under mega-firms like Google.

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