[A2k] Paul Keller: Eur. Parl must not open the door to ancillary copyright for press publishers (vote is tomorrow!)

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Wed Jul 8 11:53:01 PDT 2015

Some want to harmonize bad laws in 2 states by forcing 26 states to sign
onto ancillary copyright!
This is a good read.


European Parliament must not open the door to ancillary copyright for press

Posted on July 8, 2015 by Paul Keller

Tomorrow the European Parliament will vote on the Reda report on the
implementation of the 2001 copyright directive, which has been approved by
the legal affairs committee on the 16th of June. One of the most
contentious issues during the vote in the legal affairs committee was an
amendment by proposed by the German EPP MEP Angelika Niebler that would
have encouraged the Commission to introduce an new ancillary copyright for
press publishers on the EU level.

In a last minute departure from the already agreed on compromises, both EPP
and ALDE insisted that this amendment should be voted on separately,
clearly hoping that this manoeuvre would somehow succeed in getting the
desired language into the text of the report. Unfortunately for the
proponents of the ancillary copyright, this move backfired and the legal
affairs committee voted the amendment down with a relatively clear majority.

Quality journalism or ancillary copyright?

A couple of days ago it emerged that the proponents of the ancillary
copyright for press publishers have mounted another last minute attempt,
this time attempting to insert language calling for the introduction of an
EU-wide ancillary copyright for press publishers into the report via
another amendment tabled by MEP Niebler. This amendment will be voted on
during the plenary vote on Thursday. The amendment proposes to add a new
paragraph (57a) to the report:

Calls on the Commission to evaluate and come forward with a proposal on how
quality journalism can be preserved also in the digital age in order to
guarantee media pluralism, in particular taking into account the important
role journalists, authors and media providers such as press publishers play
with regard thereto.

While the text of the amendment does not explicitly talk about an ancillary
copyright for press publishers, it is clear that this language is intended
to give the Commission an excuse to come forward with a proposal that would
introduce such a right.

Commissioner Oettinger and the publishers

Commissioner Oettinger has not made any efforts to hide that he wants to
introduce an ancillary copyright on the EU level, and an explicit request
for a proposal from the Parliament would give him the opportunity to do so
(after he failed to get this ambition included in the Commission’s Digital
Single Market strategy). The fact that Oettinger acts as a champion of the
(primarily German) press publishers who lobby for an EU wide ancillary
copyright became clear during a recent appearance at an event on ‘The
relevance of ancillary copyrights for the European Media Diversity.’ The
event was hosted by the German collecting society VG media on the day after
the legal affairs committee voted down the first attempt to introduce
pro-ancillary copyright language into the Reda report.

At the VG media event Commissioner Oettinger not only promised the
assembled press publishers and collecting society representatives that they
would have the opportunity to provide input on the text of the upcoming
legislative proposal before it was published. He also made it clear that he
was determined to get the ancillary copyright included in these proposals,
and ignored the often made observation that the German and Spanish attempts
to generate new revenue from news aggregators for publishers have failed.
Oettinger argued that these failures are attributable to the fact that both
the German and Spanish markets are too small for publishers to be able to
force multinational news aggregators (read: Google) to pay.

Commissioner Oettinger’s solution? Introduce a pan-European ancillary
copyright for press publishers, because this ‘would force the
intermediaries to the negotiation table’. In other words, Commissioner
Oettinger is publicly suggesting that 26 member states (who have decided
not to have ancillary copyrights for press publishers in their domestic
legislation) should adopt this approach in order to fix broken and domestic
legislation in 2 member states. One could only wish that the Commissioner
would show similar enthusiasm when it comes to harmonizing even the most
basic copyright exceptions.

New copyrights do not mean media diversity

Both the VG media event (‘European Media Diversity’) and MEP Niebler’s most
recent amendment (‘media pluralism’) attempt to frame the discussion in
terms of increasing media diversity. So far the proponents of an ancillary
copyright have failed to show how their proposal would contribute to
increasing media diversity. On the contrary, it is very likely that
requiring news aggregators to pay for aggregating news will only strengthen
the position of existing large aggregators to the detriment of smaller
players, which could undermine media plurality in the long run.

In any case, introducing new rights just because the intended beneficiaries
(and pretty much no-one else) call for their introduction seems like a very
bad idea, especially since we know that these rights can cause substantial
collateral damage regarding access to information. In this context it is
important to consider that rights that get introduced tend to stay around
forever. This makes it crucial to properly analyse the potential effects of
new rights, and not push them through via last-minute amendments.

MEPs should vote against MEP Niebler’s ‘stealth amendment’, which attempts
to open the door for a Commission proposal for the EU-wide introduction of
an ancillary copyright. Ancillary copyrights are a bad idea (and haven’t
accomplished what they intend to address). And instead of presenting
proposals at the behest of publishers, the Commission needs to focus on
harmonizing exceptions, adapting user rights to the digital age, and
reducing the impact of copyright on our ability to access and share our
culture via the internet.

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