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15 September 2016

NMA Welcomes European Commission's Proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market

The News Media Association broadly welcomes the new EC proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market, in particular the provision in Article 11 for publishers to be given a ‘neighbouring right’ for the online use of their news publications.  

Catherine Courtney, legal adviser at the NMA commented: “The creation of a new right is a welcome expression of support for a free and pluralist press, which plays a vital role in upholding democratic values throughout Europe. We are pleased that the Commission expressly recognises that the organisational and financial contribution of publishers in producing new publications needs to be recognised and encouraged to ensure the sustainability of the publishing industry. A more reliable and sustainable legal framework could facilitate further investment and the creation of new jobs”.

The Copyright Act 1911 gave UK publishers ownership of the copyright in works made by their employees in the course of their employment. This reflects the legal risk assumed by newspaper companies in respect of published content, and recognises the exigencies and unique characteristics of the industry. However, this is not the case in most European countries. At European level, news media publishers - unlike film and music publishers or broadcasters - do not possess any specific rights in regards to their published products.

While this may have been a manageable situation in the analogue age it is no longer the case, given the more complex licensing environment imposed by the digital market place and the way the published edition has evolved into a dynamic creation. The new rules would help publishers combat the systematic unauthorised scraping and republication for commercial gain of vast amounts of digital content by third party distributors and aggregators.

Europe’s leading newspaper and magazine publishers’ associations NME, EPC, ENPA and EMMA welcomed the proposal to recognise publishers as rightholders in EU copyright law in a joint press release.

Fernando de Yarza, president of News Media Europe said: “Content may be free to access, it is not free to create. With the Commission’s proposals introducing neighbouring rights for news publishers, it gives European publishers the ability to monetise the investment we make in high quality journalism by seeking compensation from online platforms that turn a profit by caching our content”.

Concerns have been voiced by some that a neighbouring right would lead to a so-called “tax on linking” for personal use.  Catherine Courtney commented: “Hyberbolic warnings that the proposals would "break the internet as we know it” and prevent people sharing news online are quite simply scaremongering. The publisher's right would not impact upon consumers' ability to share articles privately, nor would it conflict with any exceptions to copyright”. 

The proposed Copyright Directive will be discussed in detail at the next meeting of the NME's Copyright Task Force in October in Brussels. The Task Force is chaired by Sarah Davis, group commercial legal director at The Guardian.