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Don’t harm small publishers with laws that only benefit large publishers.

In September I wrote about the European Union’s proposed copyright rules. One controversial aspect of these rules is to force websites to pay to snippet content from another website. A prime example is Google News, which publishes the headline and a small snippet from articles.

Google just published a blog post about what it thinks the ramifications of such a rule will be. It concurs with what I wrote in September: such a move would mostly harm small publishers.

As a small publisher myself, I rely on Google News to help get my content in front of people who might otherwise not see it. Everyone sees the latest post from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and other major publications. Smaller publishers don’t have this luxury.

Beyond just the immediate eyeballs, Google News also helps me get my stories picked up by larger publications, which in turn send more traffic to this site.

I understand why large publishers have concerns about Google News. It has become the starting point for many people seeking news. As I wrote previously:

Big publications might be frustrated that people treat Google News as their news destination rather than going directly to the news site’s homepage. But there are huge societal benefits to this. I get much more diverse viewpoints on Google News than I do on a news site, whether that’s MSNBC or Fox News.

At the same time, some people are frustrated with Google search’s featured snippets. These are the boxes that sometimes show in search results that pull out at least part of the information you’re seeking:

These are the holy grail for most website owners right now. I hear from people who say the click-throughs from these featured snippets are very high. At the same time, some people don’t like how a searcher might get the answer they seek without visiting the site. SEO thought leader Rand Fishkin has been particularly vocal about how websites should be able to opt-out of these snippets.

And that gets me to a proposed resolution. Rather than making snippets–whether in news or search results–something that sites need to get permission to use, let’s make an opt-out standard. Sites can already opt out of being included in search results. Let’s add a couple of other options in robots.txt for opting out of certain types of snippets.

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