The European Union has voted that tech giants like Google and Facebook will have to share more revenues with the European publishers, media amongst others. Photo: File

INTERNATIONAL – EU legislators voted on Wednesday to force Google, Facebook and other technology firms to share more revenue with European media, publishers and other content creators in a shake-up of copyright rules.

The European Commission, which began the debate two years ago, said the overhaul was necessary to protect Europe’s cultural heritage and create a level playing field between big online platforms and publishers, broadcasters and artists.

Of the legislators, 438 voted in favor while 226 were against, with 39 abstentions. The next step is negotiations with the Commission and the 28 EU countries to reconcile their different positions before existing copyright laws are amended, with a final vote expected next year.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the vote was a “great advance for Europe”, while the Commission’s digital chief Andrus Ansip said it sent a strong and positive signal of a reform designed to protect EU researchers, educators, writers, media and cultural heritage institutions.

The Federation of European Film Directors, the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe and the Society of Audiovisual Authors also welcomed the vote.

Google, however, called it a disappointing outcome.

“It’s bad for creators, for entrepreneurs and for innovators,” Google’s chief business officer, Philipp Schindler, said at the dmexco digital marketing fair in Cologne.

Web browser company Mozilla said the fight was not over.

“We at Mozilla will do everything we can to achieve a modern reform that safeguards the health of the internet and promotes the rights of users. There’s simply too much at stake not to,” the company said.

European consumer body BEUC also criticized the vote.

“It is beyond comprehension that time and again EU policymakers refuse to bring copyright law into the 21st century. Consumers nowadays express themselves by sampling, creating and mixing music, videos and pictures, then sharing their creations online,” said Monique Goyens, BEUC director general.

Lawmaker Julia Reda from the European Pirate Party, who had favoured more moderate reforms, said changes to a tough line adopted by a key parliamentary committee were merely cosmetic and two measures could endanger the freedom of the internet.

One could force Google, Microsoft and others to pay publishers for displaying news snippets. However, snippet taxes introduced in Spain and Germany in the past had the opposite effect, with publishers reported plunging traffic to their sites.