Big Publishing Now Turning on Microsoft, Demands More Money for Linking

Microsoft helped push for link taxes. Now, big publishing is thanking them by demanding more.

Big publishing has been pushing for link taxes in many places around the world. Whether it was Europe, Australia, or, more recently, Canada, it’s the ultimate goal that big publishing gets to freeload off of the success of what they call “big tech”.

Of course, one of the ironic things about this is the fact that one of those helping to push for the link tax is also a “big tech” player: Microsoft. Now, you might be wondering why Microsoft would push for link taxes in the first place. Well, before Google and Facebook decided to go along with this crazy idea as a method to solidify their dominant positions in their respective markets, Microsoft was making power plays in the market of their own.

You see, Microsoft has their own search engine: Bing. Bing is one of those search engines that very few voluntarily use. Microsoft tries pushing the search engine by leveraging their market power in PC’s, but most people do whatever they can to use Google. Still, they couldn’t get the Internet to switch en-mass over to their search engine. So, if you can’t make your product better than what your competitors offer, companies can employ another tactic: do what you can to hurt the competition.

So, when the publishing sector came up with the insane idea of completely flipping copyright law on its head, Microsoft saw an opportunity to inflict some pain on their chief rival: Google. In all likelihood, they thought that if they could leverage big publishing demanding link taxes, then the costs would eventually soar out of control for a company like Google, leaving them to have a dominant position in the market after. What’s more is that big publishing will remember what they did and cut them a sweet sweet deal in the process.

Of course, this power play move didn’t win them any favours. Many said that Microsoft had basically thrown the entire Internet under the bus by pushing for these link tax laws. Microsoft, however, was more concerned with their own personal interests along the way and forged ahead anyway despite the backlash. Much of this part of the story ended up being largely forgotten thanks to Google and Facebook foolishly going along with this whole scheme, however.

Now that we are seeing laws implemented in Australia and Europe (and likely soon in Canada as well), it seems that big publishing is getting everything they wanted. They are now legally permitted to steal money from aggregators and platforms. You know what they say about thieves, however: there is no honour among thieves. Now, we are learning that Microsoft, after f***ing around with the system, is finding out. Techdirt is noting that Microsoft is being asked to fork over more money, the very corporations that they helped in the first place:

Bing is Microsoft’s largely forgotten search engine. In the desperate hope that making things difficult for Google might encourage a couple of people to switch to Bing, Microsoft decided to cozy up to the newspaper industry that was hell-bent on undermining the Web. A few weeks after Smith’s blog post, Microsoft joined with European newspaper publishers to call for the Web to be weakened there too.

Given that cynical attempt to use bad legislation to attack its rivals, it is gratifying to see that Microsoft’s plan of working with newspaper publishers isn’t going so well, as reported here by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (translation via DeepL):

The collecting society Corint Media wants to enforce the demands of press publishers for the ancillary copyright against Microsoft in court. The company announced in Berlin on Friday [1 April 2022] that the step had been taken “after more than two years of talks without an acceptable result on an appropriate remuneration.”

Apparently, Microsoft had offered 700,000 euros for its 2022 use of newspaper material in the Bing search engine and The publishers, however, demanded 20 million euros. Microsoft had obviously forgotten that, as far as the copyright industry is concerned, coziness counts for nothing, and that enough is never enough.


It’s almost as if doing something that directly harms your whole industry might actually harm you too. Who would’ve thought? This really is a case of Microsoft making their bed and now being forced to lie in it. From almost any perspective on the tech side of things, it’s hard to feel sorry for Microsoft at all. After all, they are now in the process of being bitten by the very law they helped create to hurt others.

Almost everyone who knows how the Internet works have repeatedly said what a horrible idea it is to expect payment for being linked to. Linking should be free, full stop. What’s more is that almost everyone who knew this also saw what a threat this idea represented to the Internet as a whole. It’s a direct attack on one of the foundational building blocks of the World Wide Web. Everyone is going to get burned by this sooner or later. Microsoft actively chose to ignore that, thinking that they can run others out of business, leaving them to be king of the hill.

What’s more is that if one publisher is going to demand more, then it’s a very safe bet that other publishers are going to come running up and demand more too. There’s not much that motivates a bad media executive more like the prospect of getting free money. If that one publisher is going to end up with 20 million euro’s, others are going to come knocking – the exact same problem that was pointed out when Google and Facebook decided to go along with this asinine system in in Australia.

What will be interesting to see is if Microsoft sees the light after this lawsuit or not. If not, how many more millions are they going to be chiselled out of before realizing that this whole link tax business was actually a big mistake. Either way, the decisions to back the link tax is already biting Microsoft in the proverbial derriere. That is a situation they brought on themselves.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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