FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Copyright Office should allow creators to register website content, provide protection against tech platforms exploiting news publisher content
Arlington, VA – The News Media Alliance submitted comments to the Register of Copyrights and Director of the U.S. Copyright Office, Shira Perlmutter, in response to the U.S. Copyright Office’s notice and request for public input to assist it in the preparation of the “Publishers’ Protection Study,” requested by Congress in order to provide a detailed examination of the online problems confronting press publishers, including the nature, scope and severity of the crisis facing the news publishing industry from the unlicensed uses of their online content, and its impact on the continued viability of news publishers to provide the public with important news and information in order to sustain a strong democracy.
In its comments, the Alliance highlights the need for key updates to the existing system to prevent further abuse of news publishers’ online content by the dominant tech platforms such as Google and Facebook.
Facebook and Google currently do not consistently or adequately compensate news publishers for use of their original content. They make millions of dollars off of that content, while also exerting anticompetitive dominance over the digital advertising ecosystem, which news publishers rely on to be able to continue investing in producing high-quality journalism.
According to Pew Research Center, news publisher advertising revenues fell from approximately $50 billion to an estimated $8.8 billion between 2005 and 2020, a reduction of over 80 percent.
The Alliance comments state that, “As the result of the unauthorized and uncompensated taking of headlines, reported and gathered factual data, and portions of news articles (including, for example, ledes) by these [dominant] platforms,” press publishers have lost advertising and subscription revenue which could be used to help fund news content. The platforms, meanwhile, argue that their use of news content is not copyright infringement under the Copyright Act.
Alliance Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Danielle Coffey, said, “Americans are consuming more news than ever, and yet we are facing a crisis in which news publishers across the country are being forced to close because they are not being compensated fairly for use of their original content. The Alliance thanks Senator Tillis for his leadership in requesting this study and commends the Copyright Office for this important undertaking that will highlight this crisis facing the news publishing industry, a critical copyright-based industry that has long benefited publishers, authors, and the news consuming public.”
In its comments, the Alliance recommends that in its study, the Copyright Office should offer “a menu of suggested viable solutions to allow Congress to make informed decisions about any necessary amendments to the Copyright Act, or other federal laws.”
In sum, the Alliance would respectfully ask 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.
The Alliance has been vocal in its support of an ancillary copyright and the ability for news publishers to register online content, such as through an ancillary copyright similar to that established in Europe in 2019. The adoption of an ancillary copyright in the United States would help balance the relationship between news publishers and the dominant online platforms and help news publishers get fair compensation for the use of their protected content online.
Earlier this year, Australia passed legislation to require the online platforms to compensate news publishers for the use of their content.
Coffey continued, “Americans cannot afford to lose more of the local news publishers they have come rely on and trust for critical information about news and events around the country and the world, as well as in their backyards, that impact their daily lives. The time to act is now. We must ensure the continued viability of high-quality journalism, which is the solution to combating harmful misinformation, fake news, and hate speech perpetuated via the social media platforms. 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.
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.
Members of the News/Media Alliance staff have contributed to this post.