We just got done criticising how Bulgaria’s weak consolidated presidency compromise handles Article 11 of the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market (DSM) directive. The Bulgarian plan doubles down on the Commission’s original bad idea and ignores most of the positive protections offered by some members of parliament.
But we shouldn’t have been surprised when MEP Axel Voss came out with an even worse plan for the press publishers right. This week MEP Voss released his proposal for a compromise on Article 11, and the changes he is proposing are even more radical and more broken than anything we’ve seen thus far.
Expanding the scope to cover facts
First, Voss proposes to expand the scope of beneficiaries of Article 11 from to cover not only press publishers, but also news agencies (who aggressively lobbied for being included in the scope of Article 11 late last year). But in doing so, he introduces the risk of inappropriately granting copyright – like protection to facts and compilations of basic information. This is a dangerous extension of the scope of exclusive rights that would endanger the right of access to information. It is especially appalling since even the founders of the “modern” European copyright system wisely choose to make sure that news of the day and facts cannot be exclusively claimed: The 1986 Berne convention explicitly states that copyright shall “not apply to news of the day or to miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information”.
Perhaps the most extreme change is that press publishers and news agencies would be granted (or saddled with?) an “inalienable right to obtain an fair and proportionate remuneration for such uses.” What does this mean? It means that publishers would be required to demand payment from news aggregators and other users. Continue reading
This week we learned about a research study requested by the Legal Affairs committee regarding the potential impact of Articles 11 and 14-16 of the Commission’s proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. The research was overseen and published by the Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs.
We are especially interested in the assessment of Article 11—the provision that would create new rights in press publications that would allow to press publishers to control digital uses of even the smallest snippets of their content. COMMUNIA has long advocated that the press publishers right should be removed from the proposed directive. Not only is the mechanism ill-suited to address the challenges in supporting quality journalism, it would have the effect of decreasing competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders.
The European Commission, which came up with this idea, has offered no data about how a new right would increase revenues to sustain a free and pluralist press.
On the other hand previous Academic research as well as statements from the media companies themselves confirm that Article 11 won’t accomplish its aims, and is a danger to access to news online. The independent analysis commissioned by JURI conforms this once again, which should finally put the nail in the coffin on the press publishers’ right. The report concludes:
There are real concerns surrounding the rather uncertain effects of the right, and many of the problems facing press publishers can be resolved by a much less controversial intervention. We therefore approve the proposal made in the draft JURI Opinion, namely that the press publishers’ right be abandoned and replaced with a presumption that press publishers are entitled to copyright/use rights in the contents of their publications. (p. 8)
The authors of the research take a look at instances where a press publishers’ right has already been implemented, such as Germany and Spain. They conduct interviews with stakeholders on the ground to analyse the implications and effects of the ancillary rights there.Continue reading
Last week the Culture and Education Committee (CULT) and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) voted on their final opinions on the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. As our friends at EDRi have highlighted, both committees voted for measures that would make the Commission’s already bad proposal even worse. The ITRE and CULT (not published yet) opinions are particularly bad regarding the question of new rights for publishers.
The introduction of a new right for press publishers (aka the “link tax”) to extract fees from search engines for incorporating short snippets of – or even linking to – their content in article 11 is one of the most controversial issues of the proposed directive. Adopting this type of ancillary right at the EU level would have a strong negative impact on all stakeholders, including publishers, authors, journalists, researchers, online service providers, and readers.
We know that previous experiments with ancillary copyright in Spain and Germany have failed, a fact that was already known to the Commission because it is acknowledged in its impact assessment leading up to the release of the original proposal. We’ve argued that a new right for press publishers would undermine the intention of authors who wish to share without additional strings attached, especially creators that use Creative Commons licenses to share their works. We urged that the provision be removed from the directive.
In recent months there seemed to be an increasing focus on neutralizing this contentious provision. MEPs such as IMCO Rapporteur Catherine Stihler and former Legal Affairs Committee Rapporteur Therese Comodini had gathered support for deleting the press publishers right. Despite of this, last month the new right was retained in the opinion of the IMCO Committee. The opinion removes the clause of the Commission’s proposal which would retroactively apply the publishers right to anything published in the last twenty years. Continue reading
Tomorrow the Members of the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament (CULT) will vote on their position on the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive. This will be the second vote in the European parliament after last month’s vote in the IMCO committee. While the CULT committee is nominally responsible for Culture and Education it seems rather likely that tomorrow’s vote will result in an one sided opinion that would support the key elements of the flawed directive, making them worse in many areas. Below is a quick rundown of what is on the table during tomorrow’s vote. We have listed voting recommendations for CULT MEPs interested in enacting real copyright reform that will foster Europe’s cultural and educational sectors:
Expand the scope of the text and data mining exception
We have argued many times that Text and Data mining should not be covered by copyright at all. A TDM exception such as the one proposed by the Commission would then be unnecessary. Any TDM exceptions enacted in spite of this would need to be as broad as possible both in terms of beneficiaries and in terms of purpose. Unfortunately the compromise amendment on the issue does nothing to broaden the scope of the proposed exception and merely reaffirms the Commission’s backwards looking proposal. MEPs should reject the compromise amendment and vote for AMs 337, 356, 360, 362 and 364 Instead.
Broaden the education exception to fit the needs of education in the 21st century
On the proposed education exception the Culture and Education committee seems intent to abandon the needs of 21st century educators. Instead of improving the Commission’s half-baked proposal, the compromise amendment reaffirms or worsens the most problematic elements of the proposal: Continue reading
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
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
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
Traditionally, at the beginning of the new year we celebrated what is known as Public Domain Day: on the first of January of any given year the works of authors who have been dead for more than 70 years enter the public domain. As this is a decisive year for copyright reform in the European Union, it seems much more important to highlight the dangers for the public domain that we are facing in the context of the copyright reform process (you can refer to Wikipedia and the Public Domain Review for overviews of works that have entered the public domain this year).
While copyright reform generally has a positive connotation, it is important to realise that a reform does not mean that things will change for the better. As we have pointed out before, the copyright reform package presented by the Commission is extremely one-sided. And both the attempt to introduce a new right for press publishers, and the requirements for online platforms to filter user uploads, have the potential to cause a lot of damage to the public domain and the ability of users to access information and express themselves online.
Shrinking the public domain
When it comes to the public domain the proposal to introduce a new right for press publishers contained in article 11 of the Commission’s proposal is the most dangerous, as it has the potential to shrink the public domain. Our 2010 Public Domain Manifesto defines the public domain as being
… comprised of our shared knowledge, culture and resources that can be used without copyright restrictions by virtue of current law.
This definition implies that the scope of the public domain can change in response to changes of the legal environment. The most obvious would be changes to the duration of copyright protection. Lengthening the term of protection would shrink the public domain while shortening the term would grow the public domain (as we argue for in our policy recommendation #1). Continue reading
By now you will have heard about yesterday’s terrible decision by the Court of Justice of the EU on hyperlinking. In its decision the court conceded that under certain circumstances the mere act of hyperlinking to a work that has been published elsewhere – without the consent of the rightsholder – constitutes a copyright infringement. Even without a detailed analysis of the ruling (which others have done here and here) it is clear that this is a very dangerous ruling as it steps away from previous situation that made a clear distinction between the acts of publishing protected works without consent of the rightsholder (copyright infringement) and the act of linking to such works (not copyright infringement). Yesterday’s CEJU introduces a lot of legal uncertainty for anyone who uses links online, and goes directly against a common sense understanding of how the internet works.
This will be welcome news to rightsholders who have been aggressively pushing for such a limitation to the freedom to link in the past as evidenced by amendments to the Reda report. While the EU parliament ultimately rejected these attempts the Court of Justice has partially granted them through the back door via yesterday’s decision.
As Julia Reda has already pointed out the decision is especially worrying in the context that publishers have also aggressively lobbying for the introduction of additional rights. We have repeatedly pointed out that this must be seen as another effort to gain more control over what users can or cannot do online by attacking the freedom to link.
It shows a remarkable amount of hypocrisy that the European Publisher Council refuses allegations that a new publishers right would affect linking…
“Nothing we are asking for would affect the way that our readers access publishers’ content, or share links on social media or via apps and email to friends and family”
…while one of their members has just gotten the highest court of the EU to declare that linking can in fact be illegal. Two weeks before the Commission is expected to propose an ancillary copyright for publishers, yesterday’s CJEU ruling provides us with another piece of evidence that such a right will be used by publishers as another piece in their strategy to limit who information can be accessed and shared online.
Well that was quick: just two days after Commissioner Ansip delivered a non-denial denial that “this Commission does not have any plans to tax hyperlinks” Statewatch published a draft of the Commission’s own Impact assessment on the modernisation of EU copyright rules which clearly states that the Commission will indeed propose the introduction of an EU wide ancillary copyright for news publishers.
While nobody expected the EU commission to come forward with a proposal for a literal “link tax”, the “introduction in EU law of a related right covering online uses of news publications” is exactly what civil society groups like Save the Link are criticising as a link tax.
The term “link tax” is being used to point to the fact that granting news publishers’ additional rights will likely result in limitations on how Internet users and online platforms can interact with news content that has been published online. Over the last few years Spain and Germany have both introduced ancillary copyrights for press publishers, with the explicit purpose of allowing publishers to charge aggregation platforms and search engines for providing links to their content. Even though both attempts have failed in achieving this objective (something that the Commission concedes in the impact assessment), the publishers have clearly managed to convince the Commission that they should be granted a german-style ancillary copyright on the EU level. Continue reading