On Tuesday of this week, an open letter was addressed to the EPP (European People’s Party) and CDU (Christian Democratic Union) politician Axel Voss, European Parliament negotiator on copyright reform. The letter, which was issued by European institution associations, companies and start-ups, journalists and libraries, news publishers and civil society organizations, called for a move away from plans to introduce a European ancillary copyright law for press publishers.
The European Parliament justified its demand on the grounds that ancillary copyright law is regarded as necessary to preserve “quality journalism” in the digital world. It is also deemed by the Parliament to be equally necessary for journalists and press publishers so that the traditional press publishing industry can successfully compete with “competitors” from the online sector.
Ancillary copyright unnecessary – No loophole in copyright law
By contrast, the signatories of the letter, who include representatives of quality media, argue that the ancillary copyright law is absolutely unnecessary for press publishers: there is no corresponding loophole in copyright law. At the same time, the ancillary copyright law completely contradicts the basic idea of free access to opinions and information on the Internet and would have a negative effect on providers of innovative services, whilst simultaneously consolidating the advantage of a few established companies. Moreover, the intention to strengthen the fight against fake news would also be counteracted by ancillary copyright law. Quantity instead of quality would be the ultimate outcome.
Competitive disadvantage for Europe as an innovation and investment location
Oliver Süme, Chair of eco – Association of the Internet Industry, perceives the regulation proposed by the Commission as representing an acute threat to the diversity and freedom of the Internet: “Ancillary copyright has already failed in Germany and Spain. It has been shown that it does not produce winners, but only losers. A European ancillary copyright law will serve to hinder innovation, complicate the publishing and news industry’s digitalization, and become a competitive disadvantage for Europe as an investment location. This will be compounded by a threat of ongoing legal uncertainty for all stakeholders.”
In the past, eco has constantly taken a stance against the introduction of an ancillary copyright law for press publishers, and it continues to call for the abolition of this investment- and innovation- inhibiting regulation. The industry association regards it as a bitter disappointment that, in spite of the negative experiences in Germany and Spain, an equivalent regulation is now to be implemented at European level.
Besides eco – Association of the Internet Industry, the open letter was signed by a broad alliance that opposes the introduction of a European ancillary copyright law, including: the Chaos Computer Club, the Bitkom Digital Association, the Bundesverband Deutsche Startups (Federation of German Start-ups), the Digitale Gesellschaft e.V. (Digital Society), the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Netzpolitik.org, Wikimedia, Zeit Online, etc.