The European Commission’s public consultation on a neighbouring right for publishers and on the freedom of panorama closed on Wednesday. While the Commission has yet to publish the results of the consultation, Copyright 4 Creativity and Save the Link – who have both been providing tools that encouraged internet users to respond to the consultation – have published data on the responses that they have forwarded to the Commission.
The 2819 responses collected by Copyright 4 Creativity show a very clear picture. According to C4C, 96% of the respondents indicated that the introduction of new rights for publishers (either in the form of an ancillary copyright for press publishers or of a generic neighbouring right for all publishers) would have a strong negative impact on publishers, authors and other rightsholders, educators, researchers, online service providers and end users. This is a pretty resounding NO! to the misguided notion that the problems of the publishing sector can be solved by creating rights out of thin air.
Open Media, the organisation behind the Save the Link campaign, gathered more than 35.000 signatories (including 9937 from the EU) supporting the following statement:
a new ‘neighbouring right’ limited to [press] publishers and the creation of a new neighbouring right covering publishers in all sectors, will each have a strong negative impact on consumers, end-users, and EU citizens.
Now both C4C and Save the Link have both targeted internet users who are critical of an expansion of copyrights. It is therefore not really surprising that that these number show strong opposition to the introduction of new rights that provide publishers and other rights holders with more control over the internet. However, it is relatively hard to imagine that the other responses that the commission has received will change the overall picture of strong opposition to the idea of a neighbouring right for publishers.
While we have seen a strong alignment between the responses of publishers and authors in previous consultations, there are indications that publishers are pretty much alone in their support for such a new right (and as we have pointed out before there are of publishers who are against it as well). The European Writers Council ,which represents 433.000 creators has come out strongly against granting new rights to publishers, stating that:
the EWC opposes any new legal instrument granting neighbouring rights to publishers
In the same vein, the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO), which has traditionally always been a supporter of stronger copyrights, has not submitted a response to the consultation. Instead IFRRO has issued a statement in which they go to great length to avoid speaking out in favor or against such a right. Given that both authors and publishers are represented among IFFROs membership, this is another indication of the strong opposition among authors against such a right, who interpret it as an attempt to further redistribute revenues from authors and other creators towards publishers.
It will be very interesting to see all responses to the consultation, but based on these initial observations it seems to very unlikely that the consultation will provide any justification for introducing new rights for publishers. If publishers turn out to be the only group of stakeholders who are in favor of a new right for publishers, then this consultation should bury this dangerous idea once and for all.