The free press is essential to democracy but individual publishers are businesses and a business that cannot monetise its valuable content is a business without a future. The current digital ecosystem is dysfunctional: publishers produce the content, distribute the content and the revenue-earning potential is siphoned off by third parties that copy and re-use publishers’ content without permission or licence: content goes out, revenue gets diverted, publishers can’t re-invest in new content as much as they would like.
Over the next few weeks and months, MEPs and government ministers will be asked to decide on a proposal that is critical to European press publishers: whether to grant press publishers a Publisher’s Right. Such a neighbouring right would recognise press publishers as rightholders, giving them a better legal handle to address the current asymmetrical relationship with internet platforms. This is essential to fix the digital ecosystem for publishers so that they, and the European consumer, can reap the full benefits from a European Digital Single Market for copyright. Such a right has already been in place for years in other creative industries, like film, broadcasting and music.
MEPs in the Lead JURI committee are considering the Rapporteur’s draft report on this proposal and, in her text, she rejects the Commission’s proposal for a neighbouring right. The alternative, a “presumption of representation”, does not provide a workable solution and prioritises litigation over negotiation.
In general, no-one disputes the importance of a free press; nobody will dispute that content creators should be rewarded for their investment and effort; few dispute that reliable journalism is essential; few dispute that the internet needs professional, authoritative content. Yet it appears to be widely disputed that publishers should be recognised as rightholders, with their own legal standing. This legal standing would help guarantee the future of a free press, help publishers finance their valuable content, invest in their journalists and ensure that publishers can continue to fuel the internet with reliable, professional content of every possible genre. There are several misunderstandings about what this new neighbouring right would do and we would like to set the record straight:
- It would not change the way individuals share links and articles for non-commercial use: publishers encourage readers to share their content with friends and family.
- It would not break the internet: publishers want and need the internet to work for everyone on fair and transparent terms
- It would not harm small publishers: no publisher, large or small has the necessary tools to tackle widespread piracy.
- It would not harm start-ups who want to re-use content legally.
- It would definitely benefit journalists if publishers earn more revenue and fight piracy on behalf of all who contribute to the published editions
The digital ecosystem needs to work for everyone: the creators, the distributors, the search engines, consumers and all the millions of companies on the internet. We need readers to find our content on the net, the net needs our content and there is huge revenue to be made from our content…but it should and could be shared fairly in order to sustain every player.
Copying and re-using our content without our permission is already illegal but we need the Publisher’s Right to help us to bring commercial companies who wish to use and monetise our content to the table to negotiate terms.
Europe prides itself on its cultural diversity, and it is a diversity supported by thousands of different newspaper and magazine titles for every interest, in every language from daily economic newspapers to the most local publications serving local communities. They are part of the fabric of European democratic society we enjoy but they cannot be taken for granted.
Carlo Perrone, CEO, Italiana Editrice S.p.A.says, “The Commission’s initiative to create a right for press publishers at EU level represents an historical and significant step. This issue has to be solved as part of the EU Copyright legislation as it is one of the key-internal market instruments protecting the whole culture and creative sector in Europe. Such copyright protection should therefore apply to the press publishing sector in order to ensure legal certainty on a European wide basis.”
We hope that this information and insight will make a valuable contribution to the political debate on our sector, and that, if you are committed to a democratic Europe with an independent and pluralistic media landscape, you will feel inspired to get involved with our initiative, www.empower-democracy.eu.