Ancillary Copyright: bad for both end-users and creators

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No additional copyrights for publishers!
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The Commission’s public consultation on whether to grant additional rights to press publishers is aimed at audiences beyond the publishers themselves, to include a wide range of stakeholders – including end users, consumers, and citizens. In this third post of our series on the consultation, we highlight what the introduction of an additional right for publishers would mean for end-users of news and online information, as well as content creators. We encourage everyone to make their views known to the Commission by answering the consultation questionnaire by 15 June.

[If you have not read our introductory post that deals with the more general problems of granting additional rights to publishers, you may want to read that first.]

Bad for end-users

We’ve already argued that granting new rights to press publishers is a fool’s errand. The adoption of an EU-wide ancillary copyright would have significant negative consequences for end-users of online news and information.  And users would encounter additional hurdles in finding the news and content they were looking for. In addition, these users would potentially face more constraints in quoting, linking to, aggregating, or otherwise finding and using works. Many users that rely on curated news aggregators like Google News or even RSS readers or other apps that reproduce snippets of content from news articles. If an additional right for press publishers is enacted, users would find that these existing news products and services will likely be disrupted, their prices increased, or even discontinued altogether (as we’ve seen in Spain with Google News).

The creation of an ancillary copyright for press publishers can have far reaching effects with regard to access to information beyond the traditional new aggregation services. For example, popular social networking apps and websites used by hundreds of millions of people could be affected too. Think about sites like Facebook and Twitter that permit anyone to post links and short pieces of text. Under a system where publishers are granted an additional right to such snippets, those publishers would be able to extract fees from social networking sites (who of course would likely pass on that cost to their users) in order to allow for open linking to content.

Bad for creators

The adoption of an ancillary copyright for press publishers would also harm content creators.  The data show that granting additional rights for press publishers does not lead to higher compensation for creators. Instead, it frustrates end-users and results in big content aggregators like Google News threatening to discontinue operations if they would be required to pay royalties to publishers for linking to content or providing short snippets to publishers’ content. Even if a system could be arranged where publishers would be compensated for the reproduction of short snippets or links, it’s not clear how (or if) that money would flow back to the authors of the original content.

In addition, an ancillary copyright for press publishers would run afoul of the intentions of creators who wish to share without additional strings attached because the right could be interpreted as unwaivable. For example, the Spanish ancillary right did not treat openly-licensed content differently from content under all rights reserved copyright. Content publishers sharing under Creative Commons licenses, which is increasingly popular, would still be subject to the ancillary copyright, as we wrote then: “By making the right unwaivable aggregators are required to pay fair remuneration to a collective rights management organisations even if a creator has chosen to apply a Creative Commons license that allows the free reuse of her creation.”

Make your voice heard

If you are are content creator, or end-user, we encourage you to make your voice heard and let the Commission know why introducing new rights for publishers is a terrible idea that will damage the European news landscape, social media platforms and more. You can respond directly to the consultation on the Commission’s site, or through an easy tool on youcan.fixcopyright.eu.

We will continue this series next week by highlighting the importance of securing a broad freedom of panorama across the EU.

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