The debate surrounding EU copyright reform is becoming extremely heated. Sadly, we were accused this week of peddling “lies” about the proposed neighbouring/ancillary copyright for press publishers. The fact is that there are two distinct positions around copyright: those (like publishers who fund content) who i) believe that content creation should be rewarded and ii) cannot invest in content if it cannot be financed, versus the vested interests of companies who profit from using others’ content without permission or remuneration, alongside those who hold the deeply-held fundamental belief that anything found on the internet should be free to everyone, whether that be music, film, news articles or images, for example.
As in all debates with fundamentally opposing views, there is little chance of those views changing: publishers are not going to wake up tomorrow, willing and able to finance professional journalism without being paid for it, and companies whose business models rely on using our content without licence and anti-copyright campaigners are not going to wake-up tomorrow understanding the economics of press publishing and ready to acknowledge the value to society of a free press over their desire for free content.
MEPs voting on this draft reform face a minefield of opposing views, all deeply held.
Our views are different from our opponents but we most definitely are not liars, and we would like to clarify our position on the specific issues where the accusation has been levelled:
- publishers want the private, non-commercial use of hyperlinking to be exempted from the directive: press publishers actively encourage their readers to share articles with friends and family; they are not against linking at all.
- publishers, search engines and aggregators need each other – but currently the digital ecosystem is completely skewed in favour of the dominant digital platforms to the detriment of the creators;
- the Spanish and German ancillary rights laws are constantly quoted as examples of how a neighbouring right at EU level will not work. However, both laws have now been proven to work and to be enforceable.
Our view, of course, is that the free, independent press that fuels our precious democracy cannot be jeopardised. We don’t expect everyone to share that view – that is the beauty of a free and open society – we would, however, expect our elected politicians to take their responsibility for helping to secure the future of professional journalism and a healthy, diverse press very seriously indeed.