European news publishers will be given the right to levy fees on internet platforms such as Google if search engines show snippets of their stories, under radical copyright reforms being finalized by the European Commission.
The proposals, to be published in September, are aimed at diluting the power of big online operators, whose market share in areas such as search leads to unbalanced commercial negotiations between the search engine and content creators, according to officials.
The move will heap further pressure on the already strained relationship between Silicon Valley and Brussels, which are embroiled in increasingly fractious arguments over issues covering competition, tax and privacy. On Wednesday, the US Treasury department attacked commission moves to levy billions of euros from Apple for alleged underpayment of taxes in Europe.
At the heart of the draft copyright plan, news publishers would receive "exclusive rights" to make their content available online to the public in a move that would force services such as Google News to agree terms with news organisations for showing extracts of articles.
Citing dwindling revenues at news organisations, the commission warns that failure to push on with such a policy would be "prejudicial for . . . media pluralism", according to one internal document.
Critics of the idea argue that similar efforts to charge Google for aggregating news stories have failed in both Germany and Spain. Google responded to a mandatory levy in Spain by shutting down Google News in the country. In Germany, many publishers opted to waive the charge in order to still appear on the search engine's news results after suffering big drops in traffic.