[A2k] Tweeting, Copyright, European Commission: What could go wrong?

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Thu Jan 12 08:58:03 PST 2017

Latest story:
Tweeting journalism could breach copyright says Commission official
By CHRIS SPILLANE 1/11/17, 5:33 PM CET
 It is behind a paywall but you get a sense of where it is going here too:

Copyright conundrum: Tweeting this may cost you
The Commission’s wording could land social media users in legal hot water.
By CHRIS SPILLANE 10/26/16, 1:09 PM CET Updated 10/28/16, 10:24 AM CET

Be careful if you tweet this story: It might cost you.


The European Commission created a legal minefield for billions of internet
users with a well-intentioned but poorly worded proposed law to help
struggling publishers guard against digital attrition by Google and other
news aggregators.

As people read the fine print in plans released last month to strengthen
publishers’ rights over their articles, they discovered the Commission may
have accidentally exposed tweeters, facebookers and even LinkedIn users to
the whims of the world’s most powerful media organizations.

Under the Commission’s proposal, copyright lawyers could chase down
citizens for sharing sentences or snippets of articles on social media.

“Users would be breaking the law if they use snippets of articles whether
it is enforced or not,” said Julia Reda, a Member of the European
Parliament. The law is intended to help traditional publishers survive the
digital age but, she said, “it applies to everyone, and if we pass this
legislation, it will be in the hands of the publishers to decide whether
they want to enforce it.”

After two decades of tussles between old media and new, the Commission
decided to modernize copyright laws. Its draft has become one of the most
controversial elements in creating a single market for digital services
across Europe. The introduction of a so-called neighboring right allows
publishers to seek payment from aggregators like Google and Reddit who link
to their content.
The Commission attempted to protect citizens from overzealous publishers by
excluding hyperlinks from being copyrighted. Sharing a link is OK, but the
sentences, words and even letters in a tweet or Facebook post could be
owned by publishers if the Commission’s plans go through member countries
and the European Parliament unchallenged.

The intention was to empower ideas like Project Juno, a coalition of U.K.
newspapers working together to gain greater leverage over platforms like
Google News and Yahoo News.

So-called snippets — the teasers that accompany articles — could be the
headline of an article, the first paragraph or even an alluring quote. They
are akin to trailers for new films at the cinema or clips on YouTube.

“A neighboring right does not have an originality test. It doesn’t matter
whether the snippet reproduced can be considered an intellectual creation,
even completely banal sentences like ‘Madrid beats Bayern München 1-0’ are
protected. This is because a neighboring right does not protect an
intellectual creation, but an investment of the producer into the
production of a particular medium,” said Reda, who opposes parts of the
Commission’s plan.

It’s unlikely that publishers would exploit any gaps in the law that expose
typical tweeters, said Wout van Wijk, executive director of News Media
Europe, which represents 2,200 titles.

But the Commission’s fix does have a purpose.

“This right is likely to be enforced through licensing agreements between
publishers and commercial undertakings using the copyrighted content,” van
Wijk said.

The broader copyright measure, dubbed a “link tax” by critics, is intended
to give journalism similar legal protection to that given to Disney when
one of its movies is pirated online. Yet the wording of the Commission’s
proposal is so broad and vague that 1.6 billion Facebook users, 313 million
tweeters and even 433 million LinkedIn members could be subject to legal
repercussions by publishers.

“Nobody so far can show me the passage in the law, in the proposal, where
it says private users are exempt from this regulation,” said Till Kreutzer,
director of IGEL, a lobbying group funded by companies including Google and

Giuseppe Abbamonte, a director in the Commission’s digital agenda
department, believes the proposals give publishers “more edge” and don’t
endanger consumers.

The Commission’s vision will be battered by the European Parliament, where
many agree there is confusion over sharing article snippets.
The Commission concedes the new proposed rules don’t cover snippets but
believes a 2009 ruling from the European Court of Justice provides adequate
protection. The court said that extracts of 11 words or more require the
author’s permission to be reproduced. Tweets are limited to 140 characters.

The headline to this story is only seven words, so go for it.

“The Commission has proposed an exclusive right that leaves margin of
maneuver for press publishers to negotiate different types of agreements
with online service providers wishing to use press content. This will allow
publishers to develop new business models in a flexible way,” Commission
spokeswoman Nathalie Vandystadt said.

While many publishers have digital editions and want their articles to be
shared, the proposals are little more than a life jacket. The Commission
estimates they would boost publishers’ sales by 10 percent, but
PricewaterhouseCoopers expects sales in Western Europe’s newspaper market
to decline by €8.3 billion between 2011 and 2020 — that’s about a fifth of
the industry’s combined revenues.

The Commission’s vision will be battered by the European Parliament, where
many agree there is confusion over sharing article snippets.

Therese Comodini Cachia, a Maltese MEP who is leading the negotiations,
indicated that she’ll hold a public debate with vested interests. “We’ve
had hardly anyone who is 100 percent happy.”

Manon Ress, Ph.D.
Knowledge Ecology International, KEI
manon.ress at keionline.org, tel.: +1 202 332 2670

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