New paper discusses publisher's right – "unnecessary and dangerous"  01/06/2017 by Tom Hirche

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With the support of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), the European Policy Centre (EPC) has published a new discussion paper titled "Rewarding quality journalism or distorting the Digital Single Market? The case for and against neighbouring rights for press publishers". It is divided into an economy analysis (part I) and a legal analysis (part II).

The economic goals will not be achieved

After specifying the Commission's motives for introducing a new publisher's right ("fairer marketplace", "value sharing", financing quality journalism etc.), the paper explains why the proposed goals will not be achieved. The examples from Germany and Spain showed that economic benefits had not been brought "to any of the actors involved (creators, publishers, search engines, news aggregators or users)." They also had not supported quality journalism and even had led to a reduction of competition, consumer "surpluses" and media plurality. Therefore, the authors fear a decrease of freedom of expression, media pluralism and incentives for investment in the media sector at EU level.

It is also pointed out that the regulations in Germany and Spain have not been a "source of revenue for the industry". With that said "it would be a risky experiment to act at EU level in the hope of getting different results with a similar legislative instrument." This is why the authors recommend to consider economic measures instead of legal instruments like "reduced taxes (e.g. VAT) for the publishing sector."

Confusion and uncertainty

The paper strongly criticizes that the draft proposal does not clarify the relation between the journalist's copyright and the publisher's new right. This would create "a risk that employees or freelance authors will lose their right to compensation. Is it really worth it?"

Also unclear is the precise subject matter of the new right:

If we take the example of a commercial phonogram, it is easy to identify the producer's right (on the fixation of the sequence of sounds), the author's right (on the musical composition) and the performer's right (on the performance). But what about here? How can we distinguish between the author's right (i.e. the journalist's right) and/or the right (s)he transfers to the press publisher) from the neighbouring right part?

In the end, the authors conclude that the publisher's right would threaten the future of online services which "would clearly have negative consequences for the pluralism of information" and consequently " might even reduce the economic benefits for all stakeholders involved."

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