A publisher‘s right at European level

At a glance: introduction to the debate regarding a publisher‘s right in a European context.

En route to a unitary digital internal market the European Commission is also aiming to further harmonise the member states’ national copyright laws. A single European copyright law for all would also have to consider the rights of publishers’ vis-à-vis those exploiting their digital content for gain.To this end information is being made available by VG Media, a collecting society well versed in the exercising and implementation of the ancillary copyright of the German press.

1. What is a publisher’s right?

A publisher’s right is a property right like any other copyright law. It protects intellectual property and the output of publishing houses. For decades publishers‘ rights have existed in all member states of the European Union, e.g. for the manufacturers of audio storage devices, broadcasters and film production companies, to name but a few entities. Publishers‘ rights have never been more important than in this era of digitisation. Search engines and news aggregators collect and classify publishing content, using it to increase the value of their offerings. A publisher’s right ensures that publishers share in the revenue generated by these business models. It is the publishers that engage journalists, editors, freelancers and many other creative people and invest in media content and innovation.

2. How can a publisher’s right help preserve a free and independent media landscape in Europe?

An independent and multi-faceted press landscape is indispensable for the appraisal and ordering of information and the free formation of opinion in any democratic state. There is also a need for a legal framework that protects the intellectual property of press publishers and ensures that they receive a reasonable remuneration by commercial users of their content such as search engines and news aggregators.

3. Will the possible introduction of a European publisher’s right limit the freedom of the internet?

No. The objective of a publisher’s right is to secure their participation in the revenue derived from their own original content. The freedom of the internet is not linked to this issue, nor is it in any way curbed by publishers rights.

4. Will the possible introduction of a European publisher’s right mean that a charge will be made for the placing of hyperlinks?

On 9th December 2015 the EU Commission made the following statement on the subject: “The Commission has no plan to tax hyperlinks. We have no intention to ask people to pay for copyright when they simply share a hyperlink to content protected by copyright. Europeans share and post hyperlinks every day and they should remain free to do so.”

5. Does the possible introduction of a European publisher’s right amount to a new tax on search engines and news aggregators?

No. A publisher’s right protects property and investment in the creation of value/original content. It allows an economic adjustment to take place between the creators of intellectual property and the disseminators of the material. The aim of a European publisher’s right is to promote fair competition under transparent conditions – for publishers and re-users alike.

6. How does Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI) fit into all this?

The Digital News Initiative (DNI) reveals that Google values press content highly and is also prepared to pay for it. However, a system establishing the granting of payments to selected individuals cannot be a substitute for a right enjoyed by all. A publisher’s right ensures the independence of the press from commercial re-users on the internet, thereby creating the basis for a level playing field for all market participants.

7. How far has German ancillary copyright legislation for press publishers progressed?

In Germany a law was passed in 2013 establishing an ancillary copyright for press publishers. Since then, publishers have the exclusive right to make press content, or parts thereof, available to the public. This right applies to their relationship with the operators of search engines and news aggregators. Publishers can make the release of their content for commercial purposes subject to the payment of a fee. VG Media has drawn up a tariff, which has been published in the German Federal Gazette. The arbitration body responsible for disputes between users and collecting societies recently cleared the way for this ancillary copyright and the tariff to be implemented. The system entitles the press publisher to claim remuneration for any usage exceeding seven words (excl. search terms). The amount charged is still to be established. This paves the way for the enforcement of the ancillary copyright for press publishers in Germany.

8. Who is VG Media and which publishing houses are behind the collecting society?

VG Media exercises copyrights and ancillary copyrights of almost all German, and several international, private TV and radio broadcasters and over 200 digital publishing houses. Companies represented by VG Media include Sat.1, ProSieben, RTL, CNBC Europe, Al Jazeera and many national and regional radio stations as well as publishers of digital content. Thus, VG Media represents media diversity and the plurality of opinion across Germany. It issues licences based on a published tariff and is subject to government regulation. The exercising of rights by a collecting society ensures that copyright is appropriately enforced and that fair competition is possible, for both the holders of copyright and the re-users of the material.