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
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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

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

The parliament of birds
Entire © reform proposal should be rejected
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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
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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

Why Australian Schools Need Fair Use

Interieur met een vrouw die de krant leest
Australia on getting a better copyright for education
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It is Fair Use week, and we have a special guest author sharing about a copyright debate that is considering implementing Fair Use: Delia Browne is National Copyright Director of the Australian National Copyright Unit (Schools and TAFEs). Australia is in the process of re-evaluating its copyright law, including the rules regarding education. The Australian reform offers interesting parallels with the actions in the European Union. We can only wish that a debate on flexible copyright norm was taking place also in Europe.

Like almost all nations, education is crucial to the future economic and social well-being of Australia. These are exciting times for education, but the benefits of the digital era will not be fully realised in our classrooms unless greater flexibility is introduced into our copyright laws. The rules around copyright were designed in the age of the photocopier; these are not working in the age of the iPad and the 3D printer, and are holding back innovation in schools.

The current system isn’t working

Copyright reform is a significant issue for Australian schools, as Australia’s outdated copyright laws currently stand in the way of teachers using the most modern teaching methods in the interests of Australian students. For example: Continue reading

Evidence from Spain shows that new rights for publishers become a racketeer tax

chokehold on aggregators
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Coincidence has written a postscript to our yesterday’s post Good news! Quality journalism doesn’t need the snippet levy. A recent tariff on how much linking will be charged for revealed by the Spanish Reproduction Rights Centre (CEDRO) shows that publishers’ appetites are great and likely to ruin online access to content we need and like.

CEDRO decided that per each active user per day it wants to charge a daily rate of € 0,05044854. We can endlessly discuss if this arbitrary rate is a lot or not much per user-day. But this is where the economy of scale of 5 cents is pivotal – Menéame, a Spanish aggregator has an average of 139 thousand unique users accessing their site per day. So 5 cents scales up to a quite substantial 7+ thousand euro per day and that to an astronomic 2,56 million euro per year.

The problem is that this is 20 times as much as Menéame’s annual turnover (125 thousand euro). In short, a piece of legislation aimed at Google chokeholds smaller enterprises while reinforcing the giant’s dominant position.

What is perhaps worse, we have landed in this mess based on false assumptions: whatever affects the traffic to news content (could it be the decreasing quality of the news and proliferation of meaningless clickbait? Hmmm…) it is not the aggregators. As research shows they in fact assist users in optimizing their attention economy and in result sustain the traffic.

Based on these false assumptions the publishers want to racket sums that have nothing to do with the economic situation or the scale of operations of the aggregators in a strive to compensate an imaginary loss by ripping off those who in fact help news readership. By doing so the rightsholders resemble thugs that raid a bar and extort payments only because the bar is in their neighborhood.

Say no to the racketeer tax in EU!

Now, thanks to the European Commission’s copyright directive proposal we are facing the danger of that mess spilling all over Europe. If you feel you’d like to do something about this, write an email to Members of the European Parliament from your country to kick off article 11 from the copyright directive proposal. There is still time to stop this nonsense.

More ancillary copyright madness: French proposal to tax websites for using image thumbnails to illustrate search results

Boudewijn van Heusden and his Wife Sophia Receiving Homage from the Legate of King Edmund
Open letter against ancillary copyright
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We spend a lot of effort pointing out that additional copyright, like rights for specific groups of rights holders, are a problematic concept that has potential to cause a lot of damage to the Public Domain. Most of our coverage has focused on efforts to establish an ancillary copyright for press publishers. We have seen the introduction of such rights first in Germany and then in Spain in recent years, and in both cases the legislators have failed to reach their objective. Especially in In Spain the newly introduced rights have caused so much collateral damage that the news publishers themselves (who were supposed to be the beneficiary) have come out against the concept of an ancillary copyright.

Part of the argumentation why ancillary copyrights are a bad idea has been the fact that they have the potential to limit the access to information, and thus damage the Public Domain. Trying to boost specific business models by adding more types of rights to an already overly complex copyright system is the wrong answer to the challenges posed by the rise of the internet. New rights do not only affect the rights holders they are intended to help, but have a much wider impact on how we access information and culture.

This point is once more illustrated by a recent attempt in France to establish a new right that would require search engines and indexing services to pay royalties for the use of thumbnail images of copyright protected works. According to French proposal, which has been approved by the French Senate, this new right would be managed by one or more collecting societies, regardless of the intention of the rightholders whether to be financially compensated for the use of their works by search engines.

As with the Spanish ancillary copyright for press publishers, the compulsory collective management of this right means that it would also apply to works that have been made available by their creators under Creative Commons licenses, severely limiting the ability of creators to contribute to the Public Domain. The French proposal would also be very likely to affect online resources such as Wikimedia Commons or Europeana, even though these platforms are based on voluntary sharing of images.

This is why we joined forces with 14 other organisations and expressed concerns in open letters to the French Minister of Culture (en/fr) and the rapporteur of the Assmblée Nationale (en/fr )for the ‘Liberté de la création, de l’architecture et du patrimoine‘ law which contains the proposal. The letters warn that:

The current proposal […] will impact many online services and mobile apps, from search engines to creative commons models and Europeana. Money would be collected arbitrarily and without any realistic way of redistributing it accurately. Basically, every day activities of online users, such as posting, linking, embedding photos online, would be subject to a cloud of legal uncertainty.

It would isolate France in the European Union, at a time when courts across Europe have made clear these were lawful activities under national, European and international laws. It would isolate France globally, as a country where using images online would be subject to restrictive and unworkable practice.

We hope that the French legislator will have the wisdom not to introduce this new right. This would send a strong signal that introducing new exclusive rights in an already too complex European copyright framework is not a suitable instrument to support specific business models in sectors negatively affected by the internet. We are convinced that the answer to the challenges posed by digitisation in certain sectors does not lie in the creation of new rights, but rather in a re-balancing of the existing copyright rules.

Summary of 2015 amendments to the Polish Copyright Act

Gdynia, the Polish winter sea
The amendment to the Polish Copyright Act is a step in the right direction, but...
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The summary has been written by Adam Karpiński and the public policy team of Centrum Cyfrowe.

In October 2015, Poland completed the process of amending the national Act on Copyright and Neighbouring Rights. Its aim was to adapt Polish law to the EU requirements:

  1. the Directive 2011/77/EU (the Directive amending the Directive on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights);
  2. the Directive 2006/115/EC (the Directive on rental right and lending right); and
  3. the Directive 2012/28/EU (the Directive on certain permitted uses of orphan works).

Additionally, the amendment aimed at clarifying or modernising some other rules, including copyright exceptions and the regulation of ‘domaine public payant’ (i.e. royalties for the use of works in the public domain).

The amendment was the result of a consultation and legislative process that lasted over two years. During this time, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage initiated a series of meetings on key reform issues within the framework of the Copyright Forum (Forum Prawa Autorskiego) and gathered feedback from various entities, including Centrum Cyfrowe. This process was characterised by a strong presence of non-governmental organisations, and generated some heated debates between NGOs and representatives of rights holders. Continue reading

More evidence from Germany: ancillary copyright still not working

Interieur met een vrouw die de krant leest
More band news for proponents of ancillary copyright
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Over the last month the German publishers who are pushing for ancillary copyright for press publishers on the EU level have encountered two more setbacks in their attempts to turn the ancillary rights that they have in Germany into actual revenue.

Freedom to link upheld

First the Bundeskartellamt (the German competition authority) rejected claims made by the publishers that Google has acted in violation of competition rules by removing from its search results text snippets from publishers who have not granted them a royalty-free license. Google had started removing such snippets after the introduction of the ancillary copyright for press publishers to avoid having to pay for displaying the snippets. As a result, the publishers soon discovered that not having their stories findable via Google News cost them substantial amounts of visitors—and thus revenue. Because of this realization, the majority of publishers grant royalty-free licenses to Google to ensure that their content is included in Google News.

In their complaint to the Bundeskartellamt the publishers argued that Google was abusing its dominant position in the search and news aggregation markets if it would not display the snippets unless it was granted a royalty-free license. The Bundeskartellamt flat-out rejected this argument, stating that if an online service does not want to acquire a license for the display of snippets—and hence only display search results without a snipped portion of the underlying text—it is perfectly free to do so. According to the competition authority there is nothing in antitrust law that prevents companies from doing this, even if they hold the dominant market position. Continue reading

Polish Copyright Collection Societies and Their Financial Data

Fruits de l'Industrie et de l'Economie
Royalties: years may pass from collection to distribution
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Copyright Collection Societies (CCSs) are organisations traditionally set up by authors, performers, and other kinds of rightholders to collectively manage their rights. Nowadays, there are more than 250 CCSs in the EU. Copyright Collection Societies collect around €6 billion in royalties in the EU every year. The vast majority of this income feeds into the approximately 70 EU CCSs managing authors’ rights, representing over one million authors. Most of this income is derived from musical creations — more than 80% in the case of authors’ societies.

Since the role of CCSs in collective rights management and shaping of copyrights is crucial, the European Union adopted the Directive 2014/26/EU on collective rights management and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in February 2012 (see our previous coverage here). The transposition date for Member States was April 2014. The directive sets up a common framework for financial reporting. CCSs have to draw up and publish an annual transparency report including detailed accounts, financial information, and a special report on the use of the amounts deducted for purposes of social, cultural, and educational services.

Poland is an example of member state that introduced the obligation of disclosing the CCS financial data long before the directive implementation deadline: the first reports were submitted in 2011. Centrum Cyfrowe, a member organization of COMMUNIA, conducted the analysis of the financial and narrative reports of Polish CCSs for the years of 2010-2013. The CCSs were obliged to disclose these reports for the study. Continue reading

Research confirms: new Spanish ancillary copyright is actually good for no one

Het zieke kind
Ancillary copyright: a cure worse than the disease
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It is generally accepted wisdom that if you do not want something to be noticed you can best announce it on a Friday afternoon. Presenting a study right before the start of the summer holidays is a variation of this. Seen in this light, it is a bit unfortunate that the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodical Publications (AEEPP) decided to release a study on the impact of the Spanish ancillary copyright on the 9th of July when half of Europe was already in (pre)vacation mode (which is why we are covering the study 3 months after its release—for your post vacation enjoyment).

Spain’s ancillary copyright law came into effect on January 1, 2015,  after extensive lobbying by the Association of Publishers of Spanish Newspapers and in spite of opposition from other industry players and civil society groups (including us) who were concerned that the new rights would have a negative impact on media diversity and the ability to access news and other information. As a first casualty of the new, unwaivable right, Google closed its Google News service in Spain.

The new study, which was commissioned by the AEEPP and carried out by NERA consulting, confirms most of the concerns raised by opponents of the ancillary right. Based on comScore data for the first 3 months of 2015 the study finds that the closing of Google News (and a number of smaller news aggregation services) that followed the introduction of the new law has led to a (predictable) decline of internet traffic directed at Spanish newspapers: Traffic to newspaper sites has dropped more than 6% on average and 14% for small publications. Continue reading