You know what Google news results look like when the page doesn’t load properly? If EU Copyright Directive Article 11 and 13 pass, all Google news results could look like this: with blank image thumbnails and without short snippets of text.
The final language of the EU Copyright Directive will reportedly be released next week, according to Search Engine Land. Its goal is “harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.” However, Article 11 and Article 13 of the Directive are particularly problematic for small publishers and search engines. Article 11 would require news aggregators such as Google, Bing or Yahoo to pay licensing fees for publishing thumbnails or short snippets of text related to the news search results. Article 13 would make various online platforms liable for copyright infringement if copyrighted material is uploaded on their pages.
Search Engine Land shared what a Google news result page would look like if Article 11 and Article 13 pass. As I mentioned, it looks like when your Google search results page doesn’t load properly:
DPReview writes that the European Parliament backed the copyright directive in September 2018, after rejecting its earlier version in July 2018. In a blog post, Richard Gingras of Google explains that this decision could affect smaller news publishers, while it will “mostly benefit larger players.”
If Article 11 and Article 13 pass, it could also affect the quality of search engine news aggregation results. It’s likely that Google Image search will be affected, too. For example, if the images in the search results come from a news page, they could be hidden. What’s more, potentially any website based in the EU would have the same protection.
In case Google and other news aggregating sites pay the licensing fees, it could potentially benefit the content creators. But on the other hand, it could damage smaller publishers. Richard Gingras explains:
Effectively, companies like Google will be put in the position of picking winners and losers. Online services, some of which generate no revenue (for instance, Google News) would have to make choices about which publishers they’d do deals with. Presently, more than 80,000 news publishers around the world can show up in Google News, but Article 11 would sharply reduce that number. And this is not just about Google, it’s unlikely any business will be able to license every single news publisher in the European Union, especially given the very broad definition being proposed.
In 2014, Google News was closed down in Spain. This country passed legislation that required every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippets of text as a preview of news articles. Considering that Google News doesn’t make revenue from ads, Google simply found the new approach unsustainable. We have yet to see if the EU Copyright Directive Article 11 and 13 will pass, and if they do, what the consequences will be.