News Media Alliance Calls on U.S. Copyright Office to Recommend Further Measures to Clarify Law and Policies, Strengthen Publishers’ Existing Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Asks Copyright Office to amend policies, documents regarding copyrightability of words and short phrases, study need to clarify laws around substantial takings,
systematic use of news content by aggregators

Arlington, VA – On January 5, the News Media Alliance submitted additional comments to the Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, Shira Perlmutter, in response to a request for additional comments to assist it in the preparation of the “Publishers’ Protection Study.” The study, requested by Congress last year, will examine the state and effectiveness of current protections for publishers and whether additional protections are desirable and appropriate. The Alliance highlighted the urgency of the situation and the need for swift action to better protect news publishers in both its initial and additional comments.

In this round of comments, the Alliance built upon its original comments, filed on November 23, 2021, with additional recommendations for the Office’s consideration. In addition, the Alliance responded to comments submitted by other groups, as well comments provided during the Publishers’ Protections Study Roundtable, held by the Copyright Office on December 9 and in which the Alliance was represented on all three panels.

In rebutting comments from other groups alleging that the use of news content by online aggregators is fair use or not infringing, the Alliance comments state that such “substantially inaccurate statements… have the effect of obscuring the truth in an effort to circumvent long-established U.S. copyright jurisprudence, as well as case-by-case fair use analysis,” in addition to misrepresenting the nature and extent of the aggregators’ use of news content.

The Alliance also made four more recommendations – in addition to the recommendations made in its original comments – in order to further improve the sustainability of high-quality journalism, including: 1) amending the Copyright Office’s policies and documents regarding the copyrightability of “words and short phrases”; 2) clarifying the law around substantial takings and systematic use of news content; 3) studying the need for sui generis protections for news publishers; and 4) studying the need for further guidance or congressional action with regards to the use of news content for artificial intelligence applications.

Alliance Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Danielle Coffey, said, “While the Constitution is intended to protect creative works, quality journalism is not adequately compensated by aggregators under our current legal system. News publishers make massive investments in reporters and newsrooms, and they must have the ability to exercise their rights and receive a return on that investment, including through the ability of publishers to receive fair compensation for the use of their content online.”

In its initial comments, submitted in November, the Alliance suggested measures to rebalance the existing system to prevent further abuse of news publishers’ online content by the dominant tech platforms such as Google and Facebook.

In those comments, the Alliance asked the Copyright Office to 1) conclude that the reproduction and public display of news content by aggregators is infringing; 2) implement changes to registration practices that would help protect press publishers; 3) look to Article 15 of the European Union (EU) Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (the “DSM Directive”) to help ensure that American publishers benefit from and receive compensation for the consumption of their content in the EU, by adopting strong national treatment provisions in any bilateral agreements with the EU; and 4) endorse the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021 (JCPA), intended to help address the market abuse of dominant online platforms.

Coffey continued, “The current imbalance in the digital ecosystem caused by the dominant tech platforms poses an existential threat to high-quality journalism. We cannot afford to lose more of the local news publishers that we trust and rely on for critical information about news and events that impact our lives and communities. The Alliance commends Senator Tillis for his leadership in requesting this study, and the Copyright Office for undertaking this important work, and we look forward to working with the Copyright Office to offer insight and data to assist them in suggesting solutions to Congress to address the current problems facing the industry.”

Read the Alliance’s full comments here.

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Media Contact:
Lindsey Loving
Director, Communications
lindsey@newsmediaalliance.org

The News Media Alliance is a nonprofit organization representing more than 2,000 news organizations and their multiplatform businesses in the United States and globally. Alliance members include print, digital and mobile publishers of original news content. Headquartered near Washington, D.C., the association focuses on ensuring the future of news media through communication, research, advocacy and innovation. Information about the News Media Alliance (formerly NAA) can be found at www.newsmediaalliance.org.

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