Tech groups warn against EU copyright rule

Tech groups warn against EU copyright rule
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Tech trade groups penned a letter to U.S. regulators on Wednesday warning against a European Union copyright proposal.

“The Commission’s Proposal on copyright in the Digital Single Market risks undermining trans-Atlantic commerce and internet openness,” the groups wrote in a letter to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryButtigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report The Hill's 12:30 Report: Inside the Mueller report Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders MORE, Secretary of Commerce Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerMichelle Obama officiated Chicago wedding: report Election Countdown: Trump plans ambitious travel schedule for midterms | Republicans blast strategy for keeping House | Poll shows Menendez race tightening | Cook Report shifts Duncan Hunter's seat after indictment Former Obama officials launch advocacy group aimed at Trump's foreign policy MORE and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion MORE.

The letter's signatories included the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and the Internet Association (IA) — groups that represent a number of major tech companies such as Google parent Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook.

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At issue is an EU measure that would require internet companies to create content filtering software to detect copyright material.

But the tech groups say the proposal breaks from established international standards and wrongly put liability for copyright violations on internet companies instead of those who actually publish copyrighted material on their platforms.

The letter argues that the content filters are expensive to maintain, citing the $60 million YouTube has reportedly spent on the technology.

“No startup or entrepreneur could afford even a fraction of that $60 million cost, and no venture capitalist would fund a company that required so much money to create a rights enforcement tool,” they wrote.

The trade groups also railed against a proposed “neighboring right” in the measure, which they contend would give publishers the ability to charge online platforms for even small portions of news content, like headlines, displayed on their sites.

The European Commission defended the proposed measure.

"The objective of the European Commission's copyright modernisation proposals (tabled in September) is to achieve a fairer and more transparent copyright marketplace in the Digital Single Market. Our proposals do not target any particular market or group of stakeholders," Commission Spokesperson Johannes Bahrke wrote in an email to The Hill.

"Overall, these proposals benefit the whole internet environment."

The Commerce Department, U.S. Trade Representative and the European Commission were not immediately available for comment.

The controversial proposal has renewed the debate over how to prevent piracy over the internet, which both sides in the fight concede is a complicated issue. 

In September, Google also slammed portions of the proposal, writing “that the web depends on users’ ability to share content,” and that these rules threatened that.  

But Google head of public policy Caroline Atkinson at that time also praised some elements.

“There are things to like in the proposal,” Atkinson wrote. “We’re pleased to see the Commission mandating more transparency and data sharing for artists and rightsholders, an important step to building fairer and more effective copyright marketplaces.”

The proposal also could have some strong backers.

The music industry reportedly sees the measure as a step in the right direction in terms of fighting piracy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many feel "safe harbor" protections of internet companies that house copyrighted material are unfairly blocking their revenue streams.

This story was updated on Dec. 22 at 5:15 p.m.