The European Union is currently revising its copyright legislation for the digital era. Article 11 of the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market would create a new right for press publishers to the digital use of their publications (the so-called “publishers’ right,” which we have discussed before). The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee is due to vote on its compromise amendments to the European Commission’s proposal tomorrow, June 20. In anticipation of the vote, and in response to some of the criticisms against the publishers’ right, the News Media Alliance sent out a letter on June 18 to over 30 Members of the European Parliament on the JURI Committee, supporting the Parliament’s compromise amendment on the publishers’ right.
The letter, signed by David Chavern, President and CEO of the Alliance, highlights the challenges news organizations are facing worldwide and draws attention to the differences in copyright protection currently enjoyed by American and European news publishers. Currently, American publishers enjoy the right to protect, distribute and disseminate their news publications to the public – a right guaranteed by our Constitution. European publishers have no such right, and instead have to rely on protections provided by some EU member states or contracts with individual authors. The proposed Copyright Directive would aim to address this inequity.
Furthermore, the letter addresses some of the common misconceptions about the proposed publishers’ right. While critics often refer to it as a “snippet tax” or “link tax,” and argue that it would “destroy the internet,” none of these descriptions are accurate. Not only does the Parliament’s proposal exclude hyperlinking from its scope, it also protects news organizations against wholesale copying of their articles or long excerpts. Similarly, Article 11 would only apply to uses by “information society service providers,” and not to private and non-commercial use by individual users. Article 11 is an attempt to protect European news publishers against unauthorized use that doesn’t fall under one of the many exceptions already enshrined in EU law.
Quality journalism and news publishing are in crisis. Many of the issues facing news organizations today are outside of their control – or the national governments’ control – and require complex solutions. Extending protection to news publishers’ content is one of the easiest ways governments can make a real difference and protect real, quality news. It’s simple. It’s achievable. It protects our democratic institutions. And it most certainly won’t “break the internet.” It is therefore vital for the JURI Committee to pass this amendment and for the European Union to expeditiously adopt the publishers’ right as part of the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.
UPDATE 6/21: On June 20, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee passed its version of the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, including Article 11, which was passed by a 13-12 vote. The Committee also adopted a decision to start negotiations with the Council to find a compromise agreement – this decision will be announced to the full Parliament’s consideration on July 2. The News Media Alliance joins its European counterparts in applauding the Legal Affairs Committee for passing its version of the Directive, and continues to support the adoption of Article 11 and the Copyright Directive.
Johannes Munter is Director, Copyright and International Policy, and Associate Counsel at the News Media Alliance.