Google, Facebook slammed for ripping off news

PARIS • Europe's biggest news agencies accused Google and Facebook of "plundering" news for free yesterday in a joint statement that called on the Internet giants to share more of their revenues with the media.

In a column, signed by the chief executives of about 20 agencies including France's Agence France-Presse, Britain's Press Association and Germany's Deutsche Presse-Agentur, they called on the European Parliament to update copyright laws in the European Union to help address a "grotesque imbalance".

"The Internet giants' plundering of the news media's content and of their advertising revenue poses a threat to consumers and to democracy," the column said.

European Parliament lawmakers are to set to debate a new copyright law this month that would force the Internet giants to pay more for creative content used on their platforms such as news, music or movies.

A first draft of the law was rejected in July and the plans have been firmly opposed by United States tech firms and advocates of Internet freedom who fear that the regulations could lead to higher costs for consumers.

"Can the titans of the Internet compensate the media without asking people to pay for access to the Internet, as they claim they would be forced to? The answer is clearly 'yes'," the column said.

The joint statement from the agencies, which are major suppliers of news, photos and videos, said Facebook reported revenues of US$40 billion (S$55 billion) last year and profits of US$16 billion, while Google made US$12.7 billion on sales of US$110 billion.

"Who could reasonably argue that they are not in a position to make fair payment for the content they use?" the agencies asked.

"What we are really talking about is introducing a fair payment by those who have ripped off the news. For the sake of Europe's free press and democratic values, EU lawmakers should press ahead with copyright reform," they added.

The column marks a new lobbying effort by media groups, backed by artists such as former Beatle Paul McCartney, to sway European lawmakers as they prepare for a second vote on Sept 12.

The fight is over two parts of the planned law.

The first is Article 13, which would make platforms such as YouTube legally liable for copyrighted material to prevent content producers from seeing their work posted without pay.

The second is Article 11, which would create a so-called "neighbouring right", meaning that newspapers, magazines and news agencies would have to be paid when Google or other websites link to their stories.

Critics argue that the reform would lead to blanket censorship by tech platforms because of copyright problems, reducing their role as a hub for creativity.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2018, with the headline 'Google, Facebook slammed for ripping off news'. Print Edition | Subscribe