Copyright Reform

Newly released Commission documents provide insight into copyright proposal

The Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion has re­leased over 550 pages of doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to the pro­posed press pub­lish­ers right. The doc­u­ments pro­vide fur­ther in­sight into the stake­holder con­sul­ta­tion process on the pro­posed new right.

– Af­ter over 6 months of bat­tle with the Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion, the of­fice of Ju­lia Reda, a mem­ber of the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment, last week suc­cess­fully ob­tained over 550 pages of doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to the press pub­lish­ers’ right in the Com­mis­sion’s new copy­right pro­posal.

The doc­u­ments have been made pub­lic through Ask­theEU. Specif­i­cally, the re­quest was for “in­for­ma­tion in the form of pro­pos­als, memos, stud­ies, notes, meet­ing records, let­ters to Com­mis­sioner Oet­tinger and Cab­i­net staff mem­bers deal­ing with EU copy­right and the pro­tec­tion of press pub­lish­ers by ap­pli­ca­tion or amend­ment of EU copy­right law”.

The doc­u­ments re­leased by the Com­mis­sion are con­tained in 4 an­nexes: (1) doc­u­ments that were dis­closed in full [PDF], (2) doc­u­ments that were par­tially dis­closed [PDF], (3) third-party let­ters that may still be dis­closed (list of doc­u­ments [PDF]), and (4) ini­tially re­fused in­ter­nal com­mis­sion doc­u­ments that were later par­tially dis­closed [PDF].

Much of the doc­u­ments are redacted due to be­ing “out of scope”, but the re­leased in­for­ma­tion does still pro­vide a glance into the processes of the Com­mis­sion when con­sult­ing stake­hold­ers re­gard­ing the pro­posed press pub­lish­ers’ right.

While the Com­mis­sion con­sis­tently high­lighted the need for a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the press pub­lish­ers’ right in its com­mu­ni­ca­tion with stake­hold­ers, it al­ready stated at a meet­ing on 8 April 2016 that the “pro­posal could also in­clude the grant­ing to pub­lish­ers (no­tably in the press sec­tor) of a new neigh­bour­ing right at EU level”. By 1 June (two weeks be­fore the pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion closed), the Com­mis­sion’s po­si­tion seems set: “In a nut­shell, jour­nal­ists are not fully con­vinced and may push for dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions but they are not likely to frontally at­tack the idea of the pub­lish­ers’ right.”

And at a din­ner at the Jour­nal­is­ten-Club at Axel Springer’s head­quar­ter in Berlin on 20 June with Axel Springer’s CEO Math­ias Döpfner, among oth­ers, Mr. Oet­tinger main­tained that “a de­ci­sion on the next steps has not been made” but he still seemed to have a par­tic­u­larly clear idea of what the un­de­cided mea­sures for press pub­lish­ers would not do: “Eu­ro­peans are shar­ing and post­ing hy­per­links every day and they should re­main free to do so. We want to re­as­sure them and make this point very clear. […] This is a dif­fer­ent is­sue. News ag­gre­ga­tors, for ex­am­ple, are not only us­ing hy­per­links but ex­tracts of ar­ti­cles and make busi­ness out of this ac­tiv­ity.”

An­other in­ter­est­ing as­pect is the heavy in­flu­ence that Ger­man pub­lish­ers seem to have had in the dis­cus­sions with the Com­mis­sion. At a round­table in Brus­sels on 25 Jan­u­ary 2016 with Com­mis­sioner Oet­tinger, three out of 11 in­vited pub­lish­ers were from Ger­many. The Com­mis­sion it­self high­lighted the di­rect Ger­man in­flu­ence on the pro­posal in its own in­ter­nal doc­u­men­ta­tion while per­haps hint­ing that the failed Ger­man (and Span­ish) laws may be re­dressed EU-wide through sheer mar­ket size: “The adop­tion of a Ger­man law grant­ing press pub­lish­ers an ‘an­cil­lary right’ in 2013 and of a Span­ish law in­tro­duc­ing a ‘com­pen­sa­tion right’ for press pub­lish­ers in 2014 have not yielded the ex­pected re­sults but have con­tributed to spark the de­bate about pos­si­ble so­lu­tions at EU level.”

European Commission’s proposed new right for press publishers is mired in controversy

The new press pub­lish­ers right in the Com­mis­sion’s pro­posed copy­right di­rec­tive is a rad­i­cal mea­sure aimed at sup­port­ing a news in­dus­try in peril. The pro­posal may how­ever have se­vere un­in­tended con­se­quences.

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