– 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.”