In response to the European Union’s adoption in March 2019 of the “Copyright Directive” regulation, Google announced that it would stop including snippets of articles in its search responses. Instead, it will include the headline with a link. This announcement elicited a sharp response from France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, accusing Google of trying to skirt the new rule. Macron said he would ask the EU to take action against Google as soon as possible.
The EU’s March 2019 adoption of the Copyright Directive, known colloquially as the “link tax,” gives member countries two years to adopt implementing legislation. France has been the first to enact laws to enforce the rule. The purported purpose of the rule is to give authors and publishers a larger share of internet revenue by making search engines, aggregators, and other authors and publishers who link or quote source materials pay for the right to do so. The reasoning underlying the Copyright Directive is highly dubious. It assumes that such links are theft of intellectual property. In reality, they direct traffic to such source material, and snippets simply act as teasers which induce readers to read the source material. As a result, such links increase readership of the source material rather than robbing readership of that material.
For example, I wrote this article by drawing on information contained in several source articles. Prior to the adoption of the Copyright Directive, I would have cited and linked to those articles. Instead, I have been careful to neither quote nor link to such articles. As a result, those articles get no benefit or readership from this article. At the same time, under the EU rule, in the future, Google may not preview or show this article in its search. Hence, as a small author, my article will receive very little traffic.
The Copyright Directive will have a chilling effect on new and small authors and publishers. However, it may benefit the largest and most established media outlets. The purported egalitarian purpose of benefiting original authors is a fairly obvious ruse. It is not hard to see that the law is the work of established large media companies and their owners. For example, Rupert Murdoch has long supported such a rule. The Copyright Directive is an effort to restore the lucrative role of these companies as the exclusive gatekeepers of authorship and creativity.