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EU countries agree on copyright reforms, deal in sight next week (reuters.com)
65 points by thg 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 72 comments

Search engines could just wipe any publisher that insists on being paid from the results. When publishers realize people no longer find their physical newspaper subscription site, I think they would soon reconsider supporting this legislation.

And if I was a search engine I’d remove the summary from the result but link the the title to a cached snapshot such as internet archive whenever possible.

I doubt the reform will be a reality in its current form however.

That is exactly what happened the last few times this was tried.


Germany's experience: Google did not display news snippets from publishers unless they waived their right to be paid. They all eventually capitulated. Spain's experience: the Spanish version of this law did not have an opt out provision. Thus, Google News simply closed shop in Spain.

For some reason, the regulators do not believe Google when Google says they do not make money on Google News. But it is true. Google News is a "halo" property. Like Google Keep, it isn't itself a money-making endeavor. Google pays for it on the theory that providing that service will make the overall suite of services more compelling to users. But it's not worth much to Google, and you can see this by the paucity of Google's investment in the property compared to almost anything else.

Maybe the theory is that Google will stay in business and pay because they're worried about competitors filling the gap? But if this service is not economically viable for Google to run, how could it possibly be more viable for a competitor to step into this space? The outcome of a link tax will simply be that Google News ceases to operate in the EU, is my bet. That's a fine result for some people, although I doubt it's the intended one. But I guess that the EU politicians and bureaucrats will delude themselves into believing some other outcome is possible until the very moment it happens.

Thing that really makes this puzzling is Google News barely shows snippets any more. At least when I load the page, it only shows article titles.

The publishers and regulators are such fools on this topic. They think people need the news. The opposite is the truth. The news needs viewers. If it's harder to find interesting news, people spend their time on something else.

Here's an article to buttress your point re: what google search could look like to the EU. I applaud their approach. Personally I'd like to see a bigger point made, and just delist them period. Want to show up in our search results at all? Pay us. Or show them in redacted format where everything is just blacked out so you know something exists but can't get to it. Or just have a "this result was blocked due to xyz directive, read about it here..."


EU politicians never care about collateral damage. Think about the cookie law or when they changed how VAT works for digital purchases. It took them years to hear the complaint from small and micro businesses about how the change is killing their business.

Is that sales tax thing still a major problem? All you need to do is determine location (through IP, credit card etc) then do a lookup in a library, then add the relevant amount to the price.

In principle it’s an important idea, otherwise all online retailers will set themselves up in a zero tax domicile and get an unjustified 5-20% advantage over local retailers.

> determine location through credit card

Displaying the final price _after_ the user has put the CC number is not the most trustworthy experience :)

I don't know how this is done in the wild, but some large companies often have TLDs per country and only accept CCs from a given country on a given site version, for example (and they redirect you by IP).

Another way to deal with that (which e.g. Amazon uses in Europe for international Prime Video and Music Unlimited) is to use a fixed inc.VAT price and then just have the exc.VAT price vary by country.

Hah, yes, that’s true, but you could just have a country selector mechanism before showing the price, prepopulated from IP, then validate that for regulatory purposes using the credit card.

>Is that sales tax thing still a major problem? All you need to do is determine location (through IP, credit card etc) then do a lookup in a library, then add the relevant amount to the price.

Yes, it is. Let's say you're running a one man business selling digital knitting patterns. Before the law you could sell to anyone in the EU and you'd only have to deal with your own country's tax authority. After the law you had to deal with the tax authority of every single EU country you had a buyer in. Is it worth selling 10 patterns to Lithuania? No, because filing taxes to the Lithuanian tax authority is more expensive than what you would've made from the sales. Thus, you don't sell to Lithuania.

There was no minimum threshold. Earned €0.01 from another country? Better file those taxes. Almost every single country has a minimum VAT threshold, but EU politicians in their infinite wisdom didn't think of that.

This situation persisted until this year, where there's finally a minimum VAT threshold in place. It's low (€10,000) but at least it's something. It only took them FOUR YEARS to do this. I wonder how many micro and small businesses closed as a result.

As much as I think the law is annoying

> After the law you had to deal with the tax authority of every single EU country you had a buyer in.

Incorrect, that's why the VAT MOSS scheme exists https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/taxation/vat/vat-digit...

The vat threshold is definitely welcome though

And customers will just use VPN's so they appear from a different country and use bitcoin.

It's not that easy. The rules are byzantine. You have to determine location using multiple pieces of "evidence", IP geocoding is insufficient. There are specific rules for what to do if the user is on a plane or a cruise ship. You need to correctly map the user's location to VAT rate even though in some parts of Europe VAT differs within a country, rates can change at any moment and there's no central database of rates.

The VAT rulings are a mess. The correct thing to do is let remote retailers drive the sales tax rates to zero for things that can be bought over the internet. The complexities of trying to pretend all sales are local in a world where long-range shipping and the internet exist aren't worth it.

But let's not forget the EU's other regulatory hits. The cookie law that means every website now tells me it uses cookies (I know), with an annoying pop up (that uses a cookie to remember it's been dismissed). This solved zero problems I had in life but does mean using the web has become systematically unpleasant. And then there's the GDPR, a law that literally says "you can't do these things unless you have a legitimate need in which case you can", thus making a mockery of the entire concept of law.

GDPR is especially indicative of the EU's true nature because, of course, it does not apply to the EU itself. The Commission was in violation on the day it came into force, on this being noticed they announced that the Commission does not have to comply with GDPR like everyone else does.

The EU has a long track record of passing awful, business-killing laws whilst simultaneously ignoring any of its own laws or treaties the moment they get in the way of what the EU's leadership wants. It's a part of the world that implements rule by law.

> You have to determine location using multiple pieces of "evidence", IP geocoding is insufficient.

For companies with total supplies under 100.000 EUR, a single piece of evidence (which can be IP geocoding) is enough as of January 2019, thanks to this amendment:


> Think about the cookie law

The one that approximately no one follows?

Belgium newspapers tried to ask Google news for money for mentioning their articles. Google then unreferenced them. The newspapers gave up after a few days, as they had lost most of their trafic.

It will happen again.

Not sure if that will work now with Facebook and all.

I doubt Facebook is eager to pay that money either.

Apparently yes: they've been lobying in favour of this kind of filtering.


There are two separate things, don't confuse them

Not what I meant. I mean that now I assume newspapers get most of their traffic from Facebook instead of Google, so they won't care as much if Google delists them.

No, they didn't "agree" it. A majority passed this stage, but the divisiveness is showing

There is still a trilogue next week plus the vote if I understand correctly

Not to mention other institutions have come against it, like the International Federation of Journalists https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/author... who discovered they are going to get the short end of the deal and Bertelsmann (though probably for bad reasons)

One good comment I read somewhere: at some point, politicians are thinking that a proposal being hated by all sides means it's "fair"

What is a "trilogue"?

An informal meeting between negotiators from the European Commission (executive/cabinet), the Council of the European Union (representatives of member governments), and the European Parliament. The target as I understand it is to reach a preliminary agreement that is acceptable enough to be able to pass the following formal procedures.


European Commission, European parliament, member states.

trialogue /ˈtrʌɪəlɒɡ/ noun a dialogue or meeting between three people or groups.

Once again, a much better take on what's going on here: https://juliareda.eu/2019/02/council-worst-article-13/

(And previously, https://juliareda.eu/2019/02/article-13-worse/)

This one "reform" made me go from being pro-EU to anti-EU. And if this passes then I don't think there's anything the EU could ever do that would change my mind on the EU project.

If only this was the worst problem with EU. The worst problem is the very existence of the Euro in the absence of a financial policy -- and Germany explicitly forbade this from happening. Therefore the Euro will explode sooner or later. For reminders, the situation is so bad that France recalled its ambassador in Italy friday. Something that AFAIK didn't happen since WWII. EU isn't peace; obviously, it's tearing countries apart. In a few years, Brexit will be seen as the most prescient, great political act of the decade.

Unfortunately the macroeconomic aspect is a total taboo in Germany. Even "solidary" leftists claim we profit so much from the Euro... The ones on the very left get it, but they barely talk about it. Germany will never give up on the cheated export surplus until the whole thing goes bust.

Hell, barely anyone gets it anyway. Germany is certainly not alone to blame. How can the competitiveness of Germany increase for more than a decade without any other EU country caring? In the past they devalued their currencies, so why didn't they act now? Also Germany violates the 6% export surplus limit, no one cares!

Germany (and France!) violating the same budget rules it insists everyone else follows is indeed a damning indictment of what the EU truly is. But Germany isn't a winner from the Eurozone. I don't understand why everyone keeps thinking that. Germans are suffering under it and allow themselves to suffer because they see unifying Europe as a form of penance for World War 2.

Think about it - German "competitiveness" is just another way to say that they work harder than everyone else. They save money that the ECB then gives to foreign governments through QE. They make things and send them to other parts of Europe. In return they get what are effectively IOUs from the other countries - TARGET2 balances that are supposed to imply a transfer of "real" euros (i.e. paper money) one day, but which are so huge those transfers will never actually happen. There are no realistic scenarios in which an equally sized flow of goods or services ever comes back to the poor Germans in return for their efforts: the only plausible outcome is that either the internal imbalances are written off for good by the EU authorities, or that other countries exit the Eurozone and the imbalances are written off amidst acrimony and bitterness. I cannot see any realistic path to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, eastern Europe etc ever becoming as productive as the Germans are, let alone more productive as would be required to restore balance to the system, if only because the Germans never seem to give themselves pay rises.

In the end Germany will be the biggest loser of the EU project, simply because they put the most into it to start with.

> But Germany isn't a winner from the Eurozone

Well our politicians see it different. Germany was able to have government surpluses and decrease the countries debt. We have low unemployment. Relative to other EU countries, especially France, we look pretty healthy. Despite the domestic market being a mess and the average worker being stripped of normal wage increases, it's hard to argument against these "successes" without explaining in detail the macroeconomic aspects and the consequences in the long run.

> German "competitiveness" is just another way to say that they work harder than everyone else.

Actually France has about the same productivity as Germany, always had since introduction of the Euro. I think what you mean is productivity in relation to wages, namely unit labor cost. Meaning germans get way too low wages for their productivity.

And yes Germany will be the biggest loser: The government and export industry gained the most, they will lose the most. Millions of additional unemployed people, hatred from the other (former) Euro countries, far right/left parties may have a shot of getting to power, etc..

Yes, but the UK is outside the eurozone. It also has very low unemployment and although the deficit exploded under a left wing government and due to the financial crisis, it's been falling since 2010 and is now at its lowest level in a very long time. There's still more work to do to reach surpluses (last achieved in 2000) but the UK wasn't a part of the eurozone then either.

And of course Switzerland also doesn't use the euro and has a balanced budget, and a strong economy.

So to me the domestic German narrative that these sorts of economic success are to do with the eurozone seem wrong. Countries in Europe and which are not using the Euro have been able to obtain these results too. Probably if the euro had never happened Germany would be doing just as well today, and their purchasing power would have effectively gone up even if the wages hadn't because imports would have become so much cheaper.

Good point about productivity vs unit labor cost. That's indeed what I meant.

What you have to know or realize: ALL finacial sectors in Germany are net savers. Private households, companies and now also the government. When there are savings, someone else has to have debt. It's a zero sum game, meaning all savings have a debt counterpart. Now where is the debt counterpart for Germany? Look at this picture: http://www.flassbeck-economics.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/0... On top, private households. Below, companies. Below that, the government. And finally, THE REST OF THE WORLD. As you can see, from the start of the Euro, the debter position in Germany shifted from being the government or the companies, to foreign countries. Every year Germany needs 280€ billion or so new debt IN OTHER COUNTRIES to have these savings. Other eurozone countries continuously lose market share against Germany: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Balance_...

But it affects non-eurozone countries as well of course. For example the US basically critized Germany (long before Trump) as a currency manipulator, Trump just speaks it out loud. Because again, without the Euro, Germanys own currency would value up and the massive exports would be impossible.

So I think you can't deny that some dramatic change happend when the Euro was introduced and that it's still happening today.

Now if you assume Germany did not do wage dumping and the Euro wasn't introduced, could Germany be in the same position as it is now? No. Look at the graphic again and pin the red line (foreign countries) to the zero position. That in turn means, you now have to pull another line down! Because remember, all lines have to sum up to zero. Which line would you pull down? Ask private households to stop saving and spend much more money? Or increase company tax (while every other country is decreasing it)? The only solution left would be for the government to make deficits.

Currently, other countries make deficits for Germany. This is not sustainable.

But inside one country, with one money, there is an equalization of payments mechanism at work between regions. California is much richer than Ohio, and nobody in the US bats an eye at the thought that California pays for roads in Ohio, that's just the way it should work.

For Euro to work in the long term, Germany (or parts of it) and some other regions should finance heftily (8% of Germany GDP is an often quoted number) for development of Spain, Greece and other regions. But the problem is that EU is not a country. There is no European people with a deep feeling of solidarity to each other. Germans from Bavaria agree (reluctantly) to pay for Saxony, but they definitely won't pay for Portugal. There is no solution in sight, really.

The italy-france kerfuffle can be explained by the current Italian government needing an enemy for electoral reasons and has nothing to do with any specific EU policy.

The France government ran with the ball for the exact same reason.

But the euro problem is at least something that can be dealt with or walked back to some degree or if nothing else happens, it'll implode which will bring changes. Harming the internet is not something you can reverse. Once you fracture the internet it stays fractured.

- or, for security, the EU raises a standing army, is granted fiscal powers over the core states to fund it's increasing needs and becomes Eurasia... (writing this from Airstrip One).

The France-Italy spat doesn't have to do much with the EU

Do you know the historical origins of the Euro and how France was worried to have a unified Germany with low interest rates next door? So, yeah.

The Euro has its problems but your post just sounds like disinformation to be honest

It has everything to do with the EU, the Dublin rule, the fact that Italy is chastised for its 2% deficit while France gets away with 2.8% deficit, and some other things. Why do you think the populists won the elections in Italy, and will without a doubt in France in May?

Here is the story of the euro: stupid French technocrats invented it. Some unknown counsel in Fabius office when he was a prime minister even explained someday how he and a colleague pulled the "3% deficit rule" out of their noses because it sounded right, back then in 1984. This would be oh so funny if it wasn't so pathetic thinking about how incompetent all these serious-looking people are.

Mitterrand said in 1992 "J'ai cloué les mains de l'Allemagne à la table" (I nailed Germany's hands to the table). That was a terrible idea from the start. The bet was that as it cannot function without an integrated financial and tax systems, these will be forced into existence against everyone's will (but those of the most convinced federalists). And guess what? no integration happened, and now we're hosed.

The EU has no internet "champions" so they have few reservations about burning the whole thing to the ground, and that is the lens through which all their internet regulations should be seen.

That is at least more straightforward than the US which has a similar lack of Internet champions, but plenty of Web champions. Silicon Valley essentially only cares about the Internet insofar as it's the communications conduit over which it delivers proprietary services.

We're essentially arguing sides in a commercial dispute, because we've been led to think that using Google is akin to running software under our control.

Check out the net neutrality battle in the US. Not only did many corporations have opinions about this Internet argument, but a lot of passionate individual people had opinions. Including a ton of my friends in the Silicon Valley.

Check out the net neutrality battle in the US. Not only did many corporations have opinions about this Internet argument, but a lot of passionate individual people had opinions. Including a ton of my friends in the Silicon Valley.

How did that end up working out? What does passion and experience matter if the only real voice is a pile of money and favors in the hands of a lobbyist? The FCC is so corrupt/captures that it didn’t make a bit of difference, unless you count catharsis from speaking against it as a positive result.

I agree there are many remnants of belief that the tech giants represent some culmination of the Internet ideal. But this is because financial success from the corporate compromise has made people forget about the tradeoffs and sea change realizations take time.

I suspect general age-based conservatism also makes many write off the currently appearing problems. For example, interpreting this recent censorship push as well and good, rather than as a direct dismantling of the revolution of two decades ago.

And sure, it's great that Reddit et al did that blackout. But realistically that is primarily marketing for their customers and employees. Most of the energy in the Net Neutrality battle is about who will be commercial winners and losers. For instance, Netflix would have no problem with regulation that would defend their position yet say allow discrimination of BitTorrent traffic - this is the hazard I'm highlighting with the thinking that companies are going to stand up for individual rights.

> because we've been led to think that using Google is akin to running software under our control

I would imagine most people arguing about this have no illusions about how under their control Google is. They're arguing the same reason people argue about other policy questions: because it will affect them, either positively or negatively, and because it's fun.

> lack of Internet champions, but plenty of Web champions

Pedantry. A web champion is a subtype of an internet champion. The US has plenty of both.

Yes, the problem is that it will affect us - these companies are poking hornet nests and creating terrible precedents. If we were running Internet-style software to carry out these tasks, politicians would be faced with the prospect of policing individual behavior. But rather, they have a nice centralized target to attack.

It's not pedantry. It's disingenuous to equate Web Giants as standing up for Internet rights, when they're really just optimizing for their bottom line. While the two concepts start off aligned, what happens is that the companies compromise in a way that preserves their profits, yet still destroys the freedom. This actually sets up a barrier to competing with them, called regulatory capture. Witness that it wasn't enough for Google to simply suffer the DMCA, they went beyond and created a whole slew of systems to proactively police their users' activities.

What's an example of an internet champion that's not a web one?

Internet champion implies Web champion, but not vice versa. What you're really asking for is some Internet champions - EFF, FSF(E), TOR.

The obvious difficulty is there's little money in it, as the benefits are distributed throughout society rather than captured by a centralized company. My overall point is that looking towards the tech giants to defend our own rights is folly.

I see the confusion here: "champion" in this context is an economic term meaning a leading company that's the pride of it's home nation.

No, that's the way I took it. The fact of the matter is that Google isn't primarily an Internet company, but a media company that happens to deliver over the Internet. Would you call Time Magazine a "Postal Company" ?

(They do interface with several early Internet protocols such as SMTP. But that's better looked at as mining content from non-web protocols, which they'd have no intrinsic problem deprecating like XMPP)

When you think having giant corporations dictating your policy through lobbying is normal and good.

FYI: "giant corporations" are dictating this copyright law.

Which we both agree, is a bad thing.

Google and Facebook have large offices in Europe.

Spotify maybe?

Users don't directly upload content to Spotify, it all goes via the publishers and rights holders, so I wouldn't think the new rules would affect Spotify at all.

It would somewhat apply. Profile pics of users and uploaded pictures for playlist coverart.

I think they will just make Google into a true monopoly. By true monopoly I mean a monopoly where barrier to entry is so high that there is not only no competition, but it is impossible to enter the market.

For example, I don't think anyone will care to sign contracts with DuckDuckGo or any other small competitor. This means that they will not be able to compete with Google in EU market.

Currently we have also Bing. But Bing AFAIK is bleeding money from Microsoft already, so they may end up just cutting it off from the EU.

So, Google will end with a total, true monopoly.

Funny thing is that even now everyone want to be on Google. Literally all the money that Google is making is because people want to be visible on Google. Media companies will sign anything to get there. If Google offers them "we will pay you nothing", they will have to agree. If EU forces media to ask for payment (like Spain did) they will ask for 0.01 euro for a year of being indexed by Google. If EU forces media to ask for some "reasonable" price, then Google will refuse with knowledge that no one else will be able to afford that anyway.

Similar process will happen with media. Google will not bother to sign deals with small media companies. The biggest media companies will benefit. Actually, this is may be the actual reason behind this whole shit show. Cutting of small media competition. But if I had to bet, I would bet on media ad politicians being just stupid.

'Reform' always means expanding copyright restrictions even further...

> will protect Europe’s cultural heritage

What does that mean? A free and open internet means history will be erased or something?

We are outside Europe. Actually, I see this as an opportunity to buy assets of countless condamned European small and medium companies/start ups. Sad day for the entrepreneurs in EU.

It would be interesting to see a list of pro-lobbyist. Who is pushing for this to pass? (not speaking about a list industries, but actual company names, association names, etc.)

>Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovakia did not agree to the draft, however.

Can they veto it, or do they have to take it whether they like it or not?

The European Council needs the approval of 16 out of 28 member states, representing at least 65% of the total EU population, to pass the legislation to the directly elected European Parliament, which will vote on it by a simple majority.

Veto is available in limited number of cases otherwise unelected body can force member states to implement law such as this provided this will be accepted in European Parliament. People elected to parliament are not the brightest so this is likely going to pass with a bit of lobbying. I am so happy UK leaves this circus.

Every EEA country will have to implement this directive on their own.


Ah screw this. I think for the tech industry this tips the balance in favor of UK. I hope some Europeans come back so there's space for the tech people here.

Far from it. UK politicians have an even more narrow and outdated view about the internet. With the difference that they have nobody arguing against it.

Well Donald Trump wants more immigrants from EU and most tech companies are always hiring. So I guess on to the US because no more internet companies will be created here for sure.

There's a good reason all the major internet companies were founded and grew in the US.

Yeah. The reason is that its a large country with a homogeneous population (language-wise). But as long as they have a EU leaning immigration policy I don't care what story of entrepreneurship people want to sell.

Edit: In response to one of the comments, which points out that US is not homogeneous in the full sense of the word.

> homogeneous population

Note that more than half of American's top tech companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants.


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