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Martin Schulz vs. Parliament

Am 6. November 2015 - 13:35 Uhr von Tom Hirche

Martin Schulz (PES), President of the European Parliament and a trained bookseller, gave a Keynote at the Publishers' Summit this Monday in Berlin. It soon became clear that he disagrees with the majority of the Parliament in the matter of an ancillary copyright for press publishers.

Although Schulz did not mention this ancillary copyright explicitly, there is no doubt he was talking about it. In his opinion there is a need to clear up the relation between press publishers and digital platforms. "It cannot be that the publishers bear the costs for producing journalistic content while the platforms then exploit it without paying." This sentence was and still is wildly popular among advocates of an ancillary copyright for press publishers.

Moments later, Schulz seems to confuse some things. He continues:

The technical possibility of copy & paste and linking does not mean that the copyright has become obsolete. Quite the contrary: The creative effort, the creation of content in the Net, must pay off for the authors [...]. The copyright is a major basis for your [the publishers'] business model.

Let us get this straight. The publisher is not the author of the content. It is the journalist, the editor, the writer or any other human being who created it by hand and therefore is granted a copyright to protect the creation. If anybody uses this creation without asking for permission, the author can demand that person to stop this infringement. That is what a copyright is for and has ever been. If you copy and paste an article, you infringe the author's copyright. No new laws needed here. This issue has nothing to do with Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter etc. Those platforms do not copy and paste. What they do is link to texts that are freely available on the Internet. They guide viewers to the publisher's website as well as spread information/knowledge.

If it really is Schulz' concern to have the author paid fairly, an ancillary copyright for press publishers will be the wrong way to go. Ancillary copyrights are for those who have invested money but have not created something. It is to help them protect their investment.

One could say that the publisher invests money to make the author's text available and that the publisher needs to gain money to pay the author. But in many cases, the publishers have decided to put the texts out for free on their websites and to make money with advertisements. They could change this practice any day they want. Or they could at least disallow search engines to index their sites. But they don't because those platforms bring viewers hence money. The relation between publishers and platforms in general is a fair one already. It is a win-win-win-situation for the publishers, the platforms and the people. That is (in short) why we strongly disagree with an ancillary copyright for press publishers.

When the Reda Report was adopted, the plenary of the European Parliament rejected an amendment that was supposed to implement a calling for an ancillary copyright for press publishers on an EU level.

But the European Commission seems to have an opposing opinion. The Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger stated several times that only the EU could force Google to change its actions. Andrus Ansip, Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, has initiated a consultation procedure to review the need for an own proposal. And now they are even backed by the President of the European Parliament.

The freedom of information needs to be protected.

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