Need another example of how desperate Europe is? How about this: a "Drudge tax."
That may sound odd and ridiculous, but that's what the Washington Times is calling a new Germany proposal that would require news aggregators to pay a fee to publishers in order to prop up the industry.
“Online commercial vendors, such as search engines and news aggregators, should in the future pay a fee to publishers for the distribution of press products (such as news articles) on the Internet,” says a document cited by the Times. According to the Times, "any business that links to a news article with a brief excerpt is subject to the scheme."
According to PC World, the push for the law is coming in part from the Federal Association of German Newspaper Publishers Association and is directed at Google.
"It was our idea, so we are happy that this will happen," said Anja Pasquay, press officer for the group.
The editorial board of the Washington Times isn't pleased:
That it doesn’t shows this tax is not a matter of principle, but of old-fashioned crony capitalism. The new economy will be used to bail out the old economy simply because the new economy’s lobbyists aren’t as well-connected.
Europe isn’t alone in this failing. Two years ago, the Federal Trade Commission began work on a project to “reinvent journalism” which would have taxed news aggregators. Fortunately, the trial balloon was quickly shot down.
And PC World cites an advocacy coordinator at European Digital Rights who isn't either:
It is just a comically stupid policy, according to Joe McNamee, advocacy coordinator at European Digital Rights (EDRi). The reason publishers put their content on the Internet is so that people can access it, and punishing companies for helping people to find content is nothing short of absurd, he said via email.
Also, If the publishers' inability to evolve in the digital environment leads to policies that allow them not to evolve, then this will ultimately be bad for them, according to McNamee.
By the way, are you surprised that the FTC considered a program to "reinvent journalism?" If you're unfamiliar with it, here's what Hot Air had to say back in the summer of 2010:
If that sounds vaguely Orwellian to you, the actual language in the Federal Trade Commission’s discussion-points memo should have hairs standing on the backs of necks across the nation. It shows a wildly laughable rationale for government intervention that would prop up the failing newspaper model in a manner that would put the entire industry at the mercy of the federal bureaucracy it’s supposed to keep in check.
The paper notes “experimentation” of media outlets on the Internet, a rather strange term considering that most media outlets have used the Internet for years. Major newspapers have been on line for well over a decade. After framing that as “experimentation,” the FTC then argues that it won’t work. Not only that, it then offers a very strange definition of “subsidy” in order to provide cover for a government intervention.
You can read the old proposal, which was rejected, here.
A draft of the German law could come as soon as next month, but would likely not go into effect until next year.
This story has been updated.