European lawmakers recently agreed on a final text of a new copyright directive, and despits its opposition, Google is seeing some improvements in two articles of the proposed rules.
According to Kent Walker, SVP of Global Affairs, Google, the latest text improves the version adopted by the European Parliament in September 2018. Specifically, the Article 13 says that platforms "making a good-faith effort to help rights holders identify and protect works should not face liability for every piece of content a user uploads, especially when neither the rights-holder nor the platform specifically knows who actually owns that content." The final text includes language that recognizes that principle.
At the same time, Walker says that the directive "creates vague, untested requirements, which are likely to result in online services over-blocking content to limit legal risk. And services like YouTube accepting content uploads with unclear, partial, or disputed copyright information could still face legal threats."
Walker says that further clarifications are needed in order to reduce legal uncertainty about how rights holders should cooperate to identify their content—giving platforms reference files, as well as copyright notices with key information (like URLs) to facilitate identifying and removing infringing content, while not removing legitimate material.
According to Google, the Article 13 could impact a large number of platforms, big and small, many of them European. "This would be bad for creators and users, who will see online services wrongly block content simply because they need to err on the side of caution and reduce legal risks," Walker said.
Google is also seeing improvements in the Article 11 of the latest version of the proposed rules.
"We’ve always said the copyright directive should give all publishers the right to control their own business models, making it possible for them to waive the need for a formal commercial license for their content. And it seems that the directive gives publishers the freedom to grant free licenses, which makes it easier for publishers of all sizes to make money from getting more readers," Walker said.
Under the directive, showing anything beyond mere facts, hyperlinks and “individual words and very short extracts” will be restricted. "This narrow approach will create uncertainty, and again may lead online services to restrict how much information from press publishers they show to consumers. Cutting the length of snippets will make it harder for consumers to discover news content and reduce overall traffic to news publishers, as shown by one of our recent search experiments," Walker added.
Walker also warned that the directive’s definition of what counts as a “press publisher” could well be interpreted too broadly, including anything from travel guides to recipe websites - diluting any benefits for those who gather and distribute the kinds of news most central to the democratic process.
The final vote for the Copyright legislation in the European Parliament will take place during the 25-28 March II plenary session.