European Commission wants feedback on ancillary copyright and freedom of panorama

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We just got done submitting our response to the Commission’s public consultation on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. But there’s no rest for the weary. Next up is the consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain and on the ‘panorama exception’.

COMMUNIA will be responding to this public consultation, and you can too! Answers to the Commission’s survey must be received by 15 June. You can find a helpful answering guide at http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/ which covers both topics adressed by the consultation. The guide was created by Copyright 4 Creativity in order to mobilize the voice of creators, internet users, and the public in the EU copyright reform process.

Ancillary copyright

Regarding the role of publishers, the Commission wants to “gather views…on the impact that granting an EU neighbouring right to publishers could have on the publishing sector, on citizens and creative industries and as to whether the need (or not) for intervention is different in the press as compared to other publishing sectors.” This “neighbouring right” is also known as “publishers right” or “ancillary copyright”. It’s also been referred to as a “link tax” because it is intended to permit content publishers to charge search engines and other content aggregators for incorporating short snippets or even linking to news articles.

As we’ve written before, ancillary copyright is good for no one. Everyday internet users and consumers of news and articles would then have a harder time finding the news and information they were looking for, and would potentially face more constraints in quoting, linking to, aggregating, or otherwise using works protected by a new ancillary right for press publishers.

There is no decent business case for ancillary copyright either. Spain and Germany experimented with ancillary copyrights for press publishers, and both seem to have failed miserably. The Spanish law ended in Google News shuttering its operation there because it did not make (economic) sense  to have to pay license fees to news publishers for the for the use of snippets as part of a service which primary function is to drive traffic to them. By now the publishers have figured this out themselves as the amount of traffic they receive from Google News and other aggregators has dropped significantly. After the implementation of the new law, traffic to the publishers’ content decreased 6 to 14 percent. The same thing happened in Germany, except the German publishers saw what had happened in Spain and literally gave Google a free license to their content. And it’s not just the big news aggregators that are affected. In Spain, some smaller aggregators shut down entirely. Recently, a small business which curated links and news about Alzheimer’s disease that had to remodel their entire business because of the ancillary copyright law in Spain.

Last year the European Parliament rejected the introduction of an ancillary copyright amendment into the Reda  report, and earlier this year over 80 MEPs wrote a letter to the Commission opposing it.

Freedom of Panorama

The current consultation also asks for input to inform the Commission’s analysis regarding the ‘panorama exception’. Freedom of panorama refers to the legal right to take and share photos, video, and images of architecture, sculptures and other works which are permanently located in a public place. We think that the freedom of panorama should be mandatory across the EU. The sharing of photos taken in public places is an example of an everyday activity that should not be regulated by copyright. This issue was also brought up in the discussion around the Reda report. An amendment was introduced to restrict freedom of panorama to only non-commercial uses, but a huge protest from citizens, photographers, and civil society organisations—including a Change.org petition that received over 500,000 signatures—helped remove the amendment from consideration.

It’s important that the Commission hear from the public about both of these topics. In the coming weeks, we will publish a series of blog posts about questions posed by this consultation. We hope that these posts will highlight what is at stake. Communia will also be responding to the public consultation process, and you can provide your feedback too. Again, responses to the Commission’s survey must be received by 15 June, and you can check out how to answer the questions with the guide at http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/.

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