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 KerryChina emitted more greenhouse gasses than US, developed world combined in 2019: analysis Overnight Energy: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process| EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities | Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process MORE, Secretary of Commerce Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanOn The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks US trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report 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.


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.