New copyright law in Ireland may see Big Tech pay for news content

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Ireland is bringing copyright law into the digital age, in a move that will impact online platforms such as Facebook and Google.

The Government is looking to make Irish copyright law “fit for purpose in a digital age”, giving more rights to creators over their work when shared online.

It has transposed the EU’s Copyright Directive into Irish law in a bid to strengthen the protections given to copyright holders such as journalists and authors. It means that online platforms such as Google and Facebook will have to make financial agreements with media companies and creators to use content.

“Like many aspects of society, the internet has utterly changed the way in which we create, read and watch the news, books, music, TV and films,” said Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar, TD.

“The law needs to catch up with this change, and ensure that the rights of our creators, writers, journalists and performers are upheld when it comes to their work being shared online.”

The new law will give press publishers a legal right in relation to the use of their content by online service providers. Publishers and online platforms will need to negotiate financial agreements for creative content to be used. Without an agreement, platforms will still be able to use hyperlinks or short extracts.

“People want to keep getting their news from social media so there is a clear, mutual benefit for both parties in reaching these agreements,” Varadkar said.

Big Tech can generate large ad revenues on the back of news and other content that is featured on online platforms, without sharing this revenue with publishers. However, there have been moves to change this.

Last year, Australia made headlines when it proposed a law that would force tech companies to share ad revenue with news publishers. Google claimed the regulation would give an “unfair advantage” to news media businesses, but went on to launch a News Showcase feature to support publishers.

Earlier this year, the company partnered with seven Irish news publishers to license content for the Google News Showcase platform.

The new law being introduced in Ireland strengthens the position of creators when making copyright agreements, including a right to appropriate remuneration and a transparency obligation over how their work will be used.

Meanwhile, it will also allow for wider use of copyright-protected works in the creative sectors and by press publishers, researchers, educators, cultural heritage institutions and more.

Minister of State for Business Damien English, TD, described the new copyright law as a “positive move”.

“As society continues to transition on a greater digital journey, it is important that the impact of technological advances and increased digitalisation will be fair and balanced for all those copyright holders, publishers and platforms involved in making available original and creative works across Ireland.”

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