European Parliament committee demands to abolish ancillary copyright  24/02/2017 by Till Kreutzer

Today the draft opinion of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) was published. Here, rapporteur Catherine Stihler (S&D Group) claims a number of sensible and important amendments to the disappointing Commission’s draft DSM directive. Most notably she demands to ditch the ancillary copyright for press publishers (ac) once and for all.

MEP Stihler comes to the same conclusion as European’s top copyright experts in their open letter that we reported about yesterday. Her message is crystal clear: There is neither need nor justification for an ac. The main reasons are (emphasis added):

“1) The introduction of a press publishers right is unnecessary as publishers are already protected by copyright law - based on transfers or licenses of the author’s rights from the respective authors (journalists). It is true that publishers may face challenges when enforcing licensed copyrights. This issue should be addressed by an enforcement regulation. Changes made to the Enforcement Directive 2004/48/EC will provide the necessary and appropriate means to solve this matter 2) Publishers have the full right to opt-out of the engines' ecosystem any time using simple technical means 3) Potentially more effective ways of promoting high-quality journalism and publishing can be achieved via tax incentives instead of adding an additional layer of copyright legislation.

The relevance of the committees’ opinions

IMCO’s draft opinion is of significant importance. Before the European Parliament (EP) can adopt the DSM directive certain committees have to be consulted. Their opinions have to be “taken into account” in the major report of the lead Committee, which in copyright matters is the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee. Apart from IMCO the CULT committee is associated, whose (disappointing) draft opinion was recently published. Not yet decided is, whether or how the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) will be involved as well. This would be highly preferable given the civil rights impact of the DSM directive e.g. regarding art. 13 (content filtering).

IMCO in line with the Parliament’s general opinion

It is reassuring to see that the Parliament has not forgotten its broad opposition against the ac that was initially expressed in the Reda report. The French CULT committee’s opinion gave cause for concerns in this regard. Now it is key that the JURI committee also remembers what the Parliament already agreed upon across political groups in the Reda report back in 2015. Also important is that countries like France, Germany, Spain and Italy give in to the general opinion and stop to push the ac in the EU Council discussions. After the European approach to an ac is rejected one must also not forget to order Germany and Spain to remove their harmful national laws.

More silver linings

All in all the Stihler report shows that it is indeed possible to deal with copyright on the European level in a balanced way that equally respects the author's, rightsholder's and citizen’s interests. Her handling of the ac is only one example for the well-balanced perspective. Like the academia’s open letter, she shares our finding that possible issues of publishers with rights enforcement should and can easily be addressed in minor changes of the enforcement directive. Such an approach fulfills whatever copyright related improvement press publishers can possibly claim while preventing impingements on the interests of users and authors.

Even better: There are many more silver linings in the draft opinion. The rapporteur proposes a mandatory limitation for the use of protected works in user-generated content. Her amendments would significantly mitigate the risks arising from the highly problematic Art. 13 on mandatory content filtering. She claims far more ambitious new limitations for teaching and cultural purposes, preservation and Text and Data Mining.
A copyright system basing on Stihler’s report would not be perfect but it would be far better than the one that we have today.
Creative CommonsThis work is distributed under the Creative Commons BY 4.0 Licence.
This licence is not valid for external content which is referenced.