The Possible Extension of Related Rights to Publishers in EU Copyright - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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The Possible Extension of Related Rights to Publishers in EU Copyright

The Possible Extension of Related Rights to Publishers in EU Copyright

The Possible Extension of Related Rights to Publishers in EU Copyright

 

The European Commission has launched a public open consultation on ‘the possible extension’ of related rights to publishers.1 Related rights do not reward an authors’ original creation, but they reward either the performance of an original work or an organizational or financial effort. Current European copyright law confines related rights to four categories: performers, film producers, record producers, and broadcasting organizations. Publishers are not among the related rights holders.

Why would we consider extending this regime to the publishing sector?

 

News aggregators, such as Google News, plague news publishers. A recent study in Germany reveals that 60% of the users of the Internet searches for news through search engines (predominantly Google with a market share of approximately 95%).2. Consumers do not go to the website of news publishers. If they find a result, they click on the deep link connecting to the result. The deep link leads the consumer to the article on the second, third, or fourth level of the website. Of course, the advertising works on these levels are economically less attractive than the home page of these particular news publishers. Consequently, news publishers are lobbying everywhere in Europe for some form of protection against unauthorized aggregation. But would a general related right for publishers help the news publishing industry in its battle against Google and other search engines? Some say that extending related rights to the publishing sector would just lead to another unnecessary layer of rights.3.

 

The best argument one can make for extending related rights to publishers is the absence of copyright protection. But how strong is this argument really in regard to actual contractual practices in this area? I suspect it not to be very strong.

 

An independent and pluralistic publishing sector is important for our society, cultural diversity and democratic participation. News is a valuable commodity. It is important for all publishing organizations to realize that current problems impact all sectors. The publishing sector in general, in the context of the Internet, is facing a challenge or a trade off between visibility and sustainability. Indeed, publishing is about visibility, and authors and journalists want their storied to be told. But in order to remain sustainable, there is a need for some kind of solution. Distribution rates for publishers have been falling down, and therewith the revenue. The developments on news websites, which are primarily based on advertising, is by far not coping with that what the publishers were once generating on the print side of the industry. But it seems unlikely to me that the extension of related rights will create additional revenue sufficient in the battle against Google and other search engines.

 

Whether it is revenue or profit, there are significant difficulties in the industry. However, is granting publishers related rights part of the solution if the problem is an economic problem of greater scope? Is there sufficient rationale to alter related laws in a way that benefits news publishers? As the discussion goes on, we will await the results of the public open consultation.

 

Pieter Munnick

Pieter Bas Munnik is a research assistant for the Fordham Intellectual Property Institute and a current LL.M. student at Fordham Law School. He is interested in intellectual property litigation, with an emphasis copyright law and ISP liability. He is an editor at the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. Pieter Bas graduated from the VU University Amsterdam with a LL.B. in 2015.