Spain: Publishers pay themselves in desperate effort to show that giving them extra rights actually has an effect

De schout betaalt de boer zijn vergoeding, de weduwe van de baljuw treurt bij zijn doodskist
Publishers pretending that the link-tax works
Licentie

Two weeks ago the IMCO committee managed to give a new breath of life into the proposal for an ancillary copyright for press publishers that many observers (including us) had presumed to be more or less dead in the water. Following on the heels of this surprising development interesting information is emerging from Spain where a similar right has been existing since 2015. The situation in Spain shows how ineffective additional rights for publishers are and how publishers try to influence the EU policy debate on copyright reform by manipulating evidence.

Earlier this week the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodical Publications (AEEPP) published an English version of a study that assesses the impact of the introduction of the ancillary copyright (article 32.2 of the Spanish Copyright Act) in Spain. This article states that a copyright fee must be paid by sites aggregating or otherwise linking to online news to the publishers of such news. These payments (referred to as a Google Tax, after the fact that they seem to be primarily intended to extract revenue from Google) are collected by the CEDRO copyright collection society.

The study comes to a pretty devastating conclusion that clearly shows that granting a new right to press publishers is highly problematic and will not have the desired result of stabilising the business models of struggling publishers:

This analysis concludes that there is neither theoretical nor empirical justification for the introduction of a fee to be paid by news aggregators to publishers for linking their content as part of their aggregation services. Likewise, the arbitrary nature of the fee, which prevents publishers from opting out of receiving the payments, inflicts harm on a large number of outlets, particularly small publications.

Moreover, the introduction of such a fee has a negative impact on competition, not just for the aggregator segment, but also for online publications and, ultimately, for consumers, including readers and advertisers. Continue reading

Worst version of the EU copyright reform proposal yet, thinly veiled as a “compromise”

Persiflage op de censuur
Stop the attack on open internet platforms!
Licentie

Earlier today MEP Julia Reda has published two documents containing “EPP alternative compromise amendments” to the IMCO draft opinion on Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive. These documents propose alternative “compromise” AMs on the proposed publishers rights (article 11) and on the so called “value gap” (article 13). Both documents have been drawn up by MEP Pascal Arimont, the EPPs shadow rapporteur in IMCO and contain the most brazen attempt so far to push through a rightsholder agenda that goes even further than the commission’s flawed proposal. While it is unclear how much support these amendments have it is very clear that they express extremist positions rather than “compromises”.

Press publishers über alles

The first set of “compromise” amendments deals with article 11 and the associated recitals and represents an unprecedented land grab on behalf of press publishers. As part of this “compromise” proposal MEP Arimont wants to extend the term of protection for the new publishers right from 20 years (as proposed by the Commission) to 50 years. In addition he proposes to extend the right to include academic publications (which were explicitly excluded from the commission’s proposal) and also applies it to analogue uses.

This massive extension of the publisher’s rights will still be very unlikely to generate new income streams for publishers, not to mention delivering on  the promise to ensure journalists get an “appropriate share of the remuneration”. Instead, it will cause substantial collateral damage. Libraries and other cultural heritage institutions will suddenly see themselves confronted with a new class of rightsholders who can make claims for publications that have been published many decades ago. As a result libraries will likely need to take archival collections off line and spend additional resources on clearing rights.

The EPP proposals will also introduce massive uncertainties for anyone linking to press publications online. According to the proposed language any hyperlink that contains “the key information which was to be conveyed” would be infringing. The proposed standard is as ridiculous as it is impractical. Unfortunately this does not seem to register with the EPP MEPs responsible for these “compromises” who are clearly willing to throw everyone else under the bus in their attempts to grant press publishers new exclusive rights. Continue reading

Open Letter: Copyright reform proposal is fundamentally broken and won’t make Europe more competitive

Vrouw schrijft een brief in een interieur
Towards a more ambitious reform agenda
Licentie

Yesterday we sent an open letter on copyright reform to the EU Member State ministers attending the Competitiveness Council. We have done so together with more than 60 other civil society and trade associations – representing publishers, libraries, scientific and research institutions, consumers, digital rights groups, start-ups, technology businesses, educational institutions and creator representatives.

The letter reflects our growing concern over the fact that the EU is wasting the long overdue opportunity to reform its outdated copyright framework. And that we are missing a chance to make it fit for purpose in the digital environment. At the root of the problem is the Commission’s backward looking proposal for a copyright in the digital single market directive that was presented in September of last year.

More than half a year later we see the discussion on the reform proposal caught up within the narrow vision that the Commission has presented. While the European Parliament is so far moving in the direction of fixing the biggest flaws of the Commission’s proposal and seems to be willing to introduce some additional positive elements, the Member States are moving in the opposite direction. There is a lot of concern that Member States are attempting to hollow out the positive aspects of the proposal while doubling down on the measures designed to protect the business interests of legacy intermediaries (such as publishers and record companies).

Given this we have joined forces with a diverse group of stakeholders to ask the Member States (and other EU lawmakers) to oppose the most damaging aspects of the proposal and to embrace a more ambitious agenda for positive reform. In particular the open letter is highlighting three key messages: Continue reading

Romanian Parliament to European Commission: Copyright reform does more harm than good

The parliament of birds
Entire © reform proposal should be rejected
Licentie

While the European Parliament is in the middle of its discussions about the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, similar discussions are taking place in a number of Member State parliaments. The results of these conversations will influence the position that Member States take in the discussions in the Council.

A particularly interesting discussion has been unfolding over the past month in the Romanian Parliament, where on the 15th of March the IT&C Committee of the Chamber of Deputies organized a debate on the proposed directive, in order to collect the views of different stakeholders. After the event, the IT&C Committee produced an opinion addressed to the European Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, which is the group responsible for drafting the final report of the Parliament on the package proposal. The members of the IT&C Committee unanimously voted against the European Commission’s proposal and advised to withdraw it in its entirety.

While this is not a heavyweight vote and as such not likely to be taken over as the Romanian Government’s position, it represents the first entirely negative advice issued by national policy makers in a Member State. It is therefore interesting to take a closer look at the arguments for rejection. Continue reading

Spain’s El Pais newspaper comes out strongly against ancillary copyright madness

Newspapers B&W
A way forward shall be based on cooperation
Licentie

One might think that the debate on the ancillary copyright for press publishers is over – both  JURI Rapporteur  MEP Therese Comodini Cachia and IMCO Rapporteur Catherine Stihler rejected the Commission’s proposal to  provide publishers with a competitive advantage by using copyright legislation. Unfortunately, even with such progressive voices, the misconceptions about the ancillary copyright were still visible even during last weeks  Legal Affairs Committee hearing , where MEPs seemed not to understand that aggregators help news outlets gain a larger audience. And the debate in media on this issue was never more heated and polarized.

Strong voice of El Pais

El País, the largest and internationally most renowned Spanish daily newspaper, has published an op-ed strongly criticizing the idea of introducing the ancillary copyright for press publishers:

But anybody who thinks that those rights can be turned into a fortress from which to impose obligatory and inalienable fees is mistaken. This is a model that has been shown to fail in Germany, in 2013, and in Spain in 2014. Then, efforts to impose an obligatory fee on Google for the use of links to news stories provoked a major fall in web traffic for the Axel Springer group and the closure of Google News in Spain.

What is crucial, El Pais understands the value of digital technologies for press publishers, while many others, especially big German publishers, threat internet as a threat for their business model.

Thanks to the new digital technologies, we are able to reach millions of people we would never have been able to using the old, traditional print methods, while at the same time offering our readers more and better stories in real time and in more attractive formats.

The business of selling only print newspapers is over and will not be back. What publishers should do is to  is adjust their business models to benefit from opportunities created by internet, and not asking for more (copy)rights without providing any evidence that more right actually help them (instead of just hurting others).  El Pais voice, coming from a country with first-hand experience of the ancillary copyright, is invaluable in this ongoing debate. Continue reading

The Legal Affairs Committee meeting on copyright was a clash of civilisations

Batle of Hanau
Will the old thinking win?
Licentie

Now that most of the committees have published their draft opinions on the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it’s time to hear their members presenting their initial views. JURI hosted a meeting on 22 March where MEPs voiced a range of opinions on various aspects of the copyright reform proposal. The divide between the MEPs seems to run deeper than mere disagreements on definitions; instead, they underscore a fundamental schism in the MEPs’ understanding of the world we live in.

The industry-backers

Some MEPs reacted to the copyright reform proposal using a 20th century ordering of the world, where mass-scale creative industries emerged and eventually were consolidated. For MEPS such as Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, France) or Angelika Niebler (EPP, Germany) the world has not changed all that much in terms of where important stuff happens. Cavada and Niebler think publishers and other rightsholders produce all the real value, while the internet and new sharing technologies is like a portable TV that  that main purpose of is to constantly rip them off.

Seeing the world like that, it’s no wonder that they mostly approve of the European Commission’s original proposal, and oppose reforms that champion users’ rights, which for the most part they see as legitimizing tech-enabled theft. There is no coincidence that many of those creative industry backers are from France and Germany, countries that built their considerable entertainment industries well before the digital era.

Continue reading

JURI rapporteur proposes to fix most egregious flaws of the copyright reform proposal

Het is goed om voor het eerst weer te schrijven
Redrawing the balance
Licentie

Today, MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, the European Parliament’s main rapporteur for the proposed copyright in the Digital Single Market directive published her draft of the JURI report (pdf) on the Commission’s proposal. In line with the initial reactions from the rapporteurs from the Culture and Education (CULT), Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), and Industry Research and Energy (ITRE) committees Ms. Comoidini’s report points out substantial flaws in the Commission’s unbalanced and backward-looking proposal.

Unlike her colleagues from CULT and IMCO Comodini has limited her report to fixing flaws in the provisions proposed by the Commission. While such fixes are important, this means that her draft report constitutes a missed opportunity to introduce more forward-looking provisions that would strengthen the position of users such as much-needed exceptions providing legal certainty for user generated content and ensuring freedom of panorama in all of the EU.

Below we provide a brief overview of the changes to the Commission’s proposal that Ms. Comodini proposes in her draft report. We will follow-up over the next few days with more in- depth analysis of individual issues.

R.I.P ancillary right for press publishers

Her most straightforward intervention is to delete the Commission’s proposal for a new neighboring rights for press publishers. In line with what we and many others had proposed she instead proposes to solve the enforcement problems of press publishers by improving their ability to act against infringing uses of works published by them:

Member States shall provide publishers of press publications with a presumption of representation of authors of literary works contained in those publications and the legal capacity to sue in their own name when defending the rights of such authors for the digital use of their press publications. (AM 52)

Continue reading

The draft IMCO opinion is clear: the right to read is the right to mine

Gdynia, the Polish winter sea
Limiting TDM is counterproductive
Licentie

Last week the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) released a draft opinion on the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Rapporteur Stihler’s recommendations lay in stark contrast to both the Commission’s original flawed TDM exception, and CULT’s draft opinion published just a few weeks ago. While CULT Rapporteur Joulaud’s suggestions would further restrict the ability to engage in TDM in the European Union, Stihler’s opinion champions a broad exception for text and data mining that would apply to anyone for any purpose. Rapporteur Stihler proposes 3 amendments regarding TDM that are coherent with our position:

  • removal of the restriction that only research organisations may benefit from the exception,
  • removal of the limitation that the exception may only be used for the purposes of scientific research,
  • introduction of the rule that technical protections that prevent activities under the text and data mining exception will also be inapplicable under the law.

From IMCO’s draft opinion:

“the Rapporteur believes that limiting the proposed EU exception to a narrow definition of research organisations is counterproductive, and therefore introduces a simple rule, which does not discriminate between users or purposes and ensures a strictly limited and transparent usage of technological protection measures where appropriate.”

Continue reading

MEP Stihler proposes the only solution for proposed press publishers right: delete

Destruction_of_General_Hood's_Ordnance_Train_-_NARA_-_533417
The best option is to delete article 11
Licentie

Rapporteur Catherine Stihler of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) in her draft opinion on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, suggests amendments that address many of the issues that we have identified with the proposal. Regarding ancillary copyright, she simply suggests that the best option is to the delete the article 11, which is what we have been advocating for.

The Rapporteur believes that the introduction of a press publishers right under Article 11 lacks sufficient justification. It is true that publishers may face challenges when enforcing licensed copyrights, but this issue should be addressed via an enforcement regulation. Simple changes made to Article 5 of the Enforcement Directive 2004/48/EC, making it also applicable to press publishers, will provide the necessary and appropriate means to solve this matter. The Rapporteur believes that there is no need to create a new right as publishers have the full right to opt-out of the ecosystem any time using simple technical means [emphasis added].

While recognizing the problems of the press publishers in digital era, we believe that all

of them can be addressed by establishing a rule  that press publishers are entitled to enforce the copyrights over the works  that are licensed to them. One way to do this would be by extending Art. 5 of the Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC) to also apply to press publishers with regard to their licensed works or other subject matter. The other would be for publishers to review their business models and adjust them better to the digital reality. Continue reading

Draft Internal Market Committee opinion introduces balance into the copyright debate

De baljuw voert de koe van de boer weg
Important steps in the right direction
Licentie

Yesterday, Catherine Stihler, the Rapporteur for the Internal market Committee of the European Parliament (IMCO) published her draft opinion on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. As with the draft opinion of the CULT committee which we have extensively discussed here, here and here the IMCO draft makes it clear that the European Commission’s proposal is seriously flawed and requires substantial changes.

Catherine Stihler’s opinion contains proposals for amendments that address many of the issues that we have identified with the proposal, and on all of them she makes suggestions that move into the right direction (which includes proposal for a total of five new mandatory exceptions).

R.I.P. press publishers right

The ill-considered proposal to introduce a new neighbouring right for press publishers right is met with the only sensible answer: deletion of the relevant article and recitals. She points out, in line with what we have argued for, that the protection sought by publishers can be achieved with much less invasive means than the reaction of a new right:

Simple changes made to Article 5 of the Enforcement Directive 2004/48/EC, making it also applicable to press publishers, will provide the necessary and appropriate means to solve this matter.

Together with indications that the rapporteur for the JURI committee is also not convinced that press publishers need such a right, this starts looking like the end for the short sighted idea of curing the problems of the press sector with additional rights.

No upload filtering requirement for online platforms

While Stihler’s opinion is less rigorous on the upload filtering provisions contained in Article 13 (which we would also like to see deleted), her approach to the mess created by article 13 covers all the right bases. Her amendments remove all references to filtering measures and “effective content recognition technologies” and make it clear that any new obligations do not contradict the E-Commerce Directive: Continue reading