© 2019 by EMMA, ENPA, EPC and NME

The Publisher's Right:

In Context

On 14 September, the European Commission published a copyright reform package containing draft legal texts and an overarching Communication including a related right for press publishers. This new right aims to provide legal protection by introducing rights at EU level to protect the unauthorised reproduction and distribution of publishers' press publications in the context of the digital world.

To remain competitive and independently financed in the EU, publishers need to be able to compete effectively and profitably on all platforms, which requires clear rights that are recognised in the market. The current lack of clarity benefits those third parties that want to freeride on press publishers' investment.

The introduction of a publishers' right at such a critical time for the digital transformation of the press is welcomed by the four European press publishers associations - EMMA, ENPA, EPC and NME - which represent the interests of thousands of newspaper and magazine publishers across the EU.

On 14 September, the European Commission published a proposal for a directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which includes a related right for press publishers ("press publisher's right"). This proposal aims to provide legal protection by introducing rights at EU level to protect the unauthorised reproduction and distribution of publishers' press publications in the context of the digital world.

To remain competitive and independently financed in the EU, publishers need to be able to compete effectively and profitably on all platforms, which requires clear rights that are recognised in the market. The current lack of clarity benefits those third parties that want to freeride on press publishers' investment.

Currently, publishers do not have their own rights to protect their press publications under EU copyright law - i.e. the sum of the contributions from journalists, photographers, designers and editors, is not protected at the publisher level.

 

Of course, the articles, still images or literary works that publishers make available are protected individually, but in the digital age this raises problems of legal clarity, management and enforcement, making the copyright regime for press publishers quite simply out of date. Against this background, publishers are asking the European Commission to add publishers to the list of rightholders at EU level so that they are able to manage their copyrights efficiently in future, and continue to invest in the production cycle of professionally produced editorial content.

 

A new "press publisher's right" will afford publishers the same related rights as already enjoyed by music, film and software program producers, whose finished works are copyrighted in their entirety, giving them the legal right to decide how and where their content is made available.

Additional Information:

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.

- Thomas Jefferson, 1787

The digital age has presented publishers with huge opportunities to find new audiences and distribution partners. Publishers themselves actively encourage their readers to become distributors by offering simple means to link articles directly to social media, or to share with friends and family via apps or email.

Unfortunately, publishers' content today is being systematically scraped, copied and distributed by commercial organisations  who then profit from displaying publishers' content without permission. It is clear that readers and advertisers value the editorial content from publishers that appear on third party websites, platforms and search engines, which brings enormous value to these third parties. However, publishers are increasingly seeing that these third parties are becoming substitutes for the press publication.

A free and independent press can only exist if there is adequate revenue to pay journalists, photographers and freelancers to finance their training and security. Today, this prospect is increasingly reduced, mainly due to loss of revenues - the majority of advertising revenues go to search and social media; the unauthorised and unremunerated large-scale use of publishers' content; and a lack of legal clarity to enable enforcement against large-scale infringements.

 

Press freedom is not just a function of the law. It also depends on a market that can generate sufficient returns for the huge financial investments required, and to cover the enormous legal and commercial risks of the news media business. A strong, plural market with meaningful rewards for popular success is an essential component of a strong, independent and free press. In order for publishers to continue to produce news, analysis, investigative reporting, features or eye-witness accounts from war zones or live events, there has to be a fair value exchange between those who produce and those who distribute for the cycle to continue profitably and fairly.