AC has "overwhelmingly negative impact"  02/12/2015 by Tom Hirche

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EDiMA, the European trade association representing online platforms, has recently published a document that summarizes the research available on ancillary rights in news. The results are alarming.

The laws in Germany and Spain affect many online activities while touching a vast array of creative works at the same time, the document says. This leads to a legal uncertainty smaller European businesses simply cannot afford to clear up - letting the costs for licenses aside. Mikael Voss, CEO of the German search engine start-up is cited:

A legal dispute with [the German publisher association] would have dragged on for years, finally leading to bankruptcy of - regardless of the outcome. Four years of intensive research and development would have been for vain. We thought about removing German media from our search index and to relocate our headquarters abroad.

Innovation is hampered and several start-ups and services were shut down already, which helped the established services to strengthen their market power.

Furthermore, ancillary copyrights make it harder for publishers to reach their readers online, EDiMA finds. Smaller publishers suffer the most. The financial loss for the Spanish news publishing industry is estimated to reach € 10 million a year. The German Max Planck Institute expects that the availability of local domestic content will be reduced.

Regarding to the document, ancillary rights increase search costs for users and make it harder to find information as choice and diversity is reduced. An estimation cited names a loss of € 1,85 billion a year for Spanish consumers. Links without context (e.g. a snippet) would be practically useless.

The Max Planck Institute is quoted as saying that

[i]ndustrial property rights are only required where such a market failure is imminent. This situation does not exist in the case of published works in relation to aggregators. [...] When considered overall, the [bill does] not appear to have been well thought-through. Furthermore, it is not possible to justify the draft with any objective argument. Even the publishers are not fully supportive of the measure.

The document links to several researches that show online services are not substitutes for news articles and do not reduce traffic but increase it. Most users would access the news site directly or use different tools like email, social networks. Further, the authors point to the possibility for publishers to opt-out of the online services.

EDiMA has named many (more) arguments against an ancillary copyright for press publishers whereas supporting arguments are obviously non-existent. The impact of such a right is described as "overwhelmingly negative" not only for consumers but for news publishers and innovations as well.

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