The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director, European Publishers Council

MEPs will vote this week on the controversial Publisher’s [neighbouring] right. There’s a lot at stake:
As MEPs consider the details: the wording, the phrasing, the multiple possible interpretations, the nitty gritty of every line in every article of the draft EU Copyright Reform, we would like to draw everyone back just for a moment to the big picture: to what is actually at stake here; to why we need this reform; to why it was proposed in the first place; to what will happen if we get bogged down in the detail and lose sight of the end goal which should surely be to make copyright fit for the digital world and to ensure the survival of a healthy, independent, diverse free press for the good of democratic society and everyone within it.

Speaking at the outset of this reform, the then Digital Society Commissioner Mr Oettinger told MEPs: “We have copyright legislation, but it is not up to date any more, it is not adapted to the digital world.”

Because it is not adapted to the digital world, it doesn’t work. And because it doesn’t work, it is all too easy for others to exploit news publishers’ work without permission or remuneration and earn revenues without taking any of the risks, costs or legal liability of producing it. And why does that matter? If you value a free, diverse and independent press, it matters; if publishers cannot afford to fund everything from foreign to very local correspondents, it matters; if readers have to rely on user-generated content for their “news”, it matters; if journalists, freelancers, photographers and editors continue to lose their livelihoods, it matters; it we cannot afford to fund investigation and enquiry by professional journalists bound by strict codes of conduct and professional ethics….this is what’s at stake.

Importantly – and contrary to what the anti-copyright campaigners and vested interests will tell you:

  • the link is safe (and always was)
  • the internet will not break (it needs fact-checked content)
  • small publishers need it as well as large publishers
  • journalists and authors will be entitled to a fair share of increased revenue (written into Article 11)

The proposed neighbouring publisher’s right within the copyright reform is just a small tweak in current copyright law, but it could have a massive impact on the future viability of professional news publishing and journalism. It would make nothing an infringement that isn’t one already; it just adds publishers to the list of those (along with film and music producers and broadcasters) who already have the legal tools to enforce existing copyright.

Without this reform, revenue from news publishers’ content will continue to be siphoned off by companies large and small that routinely re-use and monetise our content without permission or remuneration and there’s not much we can do about it.

A neighbouring publisher’s right may be a small tweak in copyright law, but it would be a giant leap for the future of the free press. That’s the big picture: that’s what’s at stake, that’s why we need it and that’s why this reform was proposed in the first place.

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