German Newspaper Publishers Want Copyright On Headlines And Full Control Over Content

from the this-ought-to-be-fun dept

Back in November, we had noted with concern that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was signalling her willingness to approve special new copyright laws that would give new monopolies to newspapers, massively increasing their ability to control any part of their works online. It looks like that process is moving forward. Glyn Moody points us to an analysis of the current proposal that would massively expand copyright monopolies specifically to protect some legacy business models, but with no concern at all for encouraging actual creativity. The proposal would create new rights for scientific publishing, photographs, public performances and more. Where it gets scary is when they talk about giving newspapers the right to control their headlines. Think of this as the “anti-Google News” clause:

It looks as if publishers might really be lobbying for obtaining a new exclusive right conferring the power to monopolise speech e.g. by assigning a right to re-use a particular wording in the headline of a news article anywhere else without the permission of the rights holder. According to the drafts circulating in the internet, permission shall be obtainably exclusively by closing an agreement with a new collecting society which will be founded after the drafts have matured into law. Depending on the particulars, new levies might come up for each and every user of a PC, at least if the computer is used in a company for commercial purposes.

Well, obtaining monopoly protection for sentences and even parts of sentences in a natural language appears to be some kind of very strong meat. This would mean that publishers can control the wording of news messages. This comes crucially close to private control on the dissemination of facts.

Even more incredible? Some are arguing that these proposals don’t go nearly far enough:

Mr Castendyk concludes that even if the envisaged auxiliary copyright protection for newspaper language enters into law, the resulting additional revenue streams probably would be insufficient to rescue the publishing companies. He then goes a step further and postulates that publishing companies enjoy a quasi-constitutional guantee due to their role in the society insofar the state has the obligation to maintain the conditions for their existence forever. As I’m not a constitutional lawyer I won’t comment this here but, with all due respect, I would not be very much surprised if such sentence turns out to be lobbyist speech. Utilising the leveraging effect of this postulated quasi-constitutional guarantee, Castendyk demands to amend cartel law in order to enable a global ‘pooling’ of all exclusive rights of all newspaper publishers in Germany in order to block any attempt to defect from the paywall cartell by single competitor as discussed above.

Yes, the recommendation is to not just grant every newspaper publisher copyright on small snippets of words and headlines, but to then also force them all into a cartel that will put up paywalls, with no ability to get around the paywall. Talk about killing the news…

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Comments on “German Newspaper Publishers Want Copyright On Headlines And Full Control Over Content”

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Mike S (profile) says:

so let them...

They will just die off faster. If this is REALLY what they think can save them… let them have it and let them die. There ARE other sources of information out there..and more will come along and see the opportunity to replace these dying dinosaurs.

They don’t need new laws… they need to learn to adapt and innovate… but I guess buying politicians is easier.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: so let them...

“They will just die off faster. If this is REALLY what they think can save them… let them have it and let them die.”

I agree. This is one of the reasons ACTA is a good thing artificial support of industries from external competition causes a harder faster crash. The internet is borderless, laws and trade agreements wont work.

interval (profile) says:

Re: What exactly is the problem?

It amazes me that rather than this simple, although still somewhat “technical” approach to “protecting” their content they would rather threaten legal action. It seems like that a couple of it guys as witnesses in any of these suits would get courts to see how much of a nothing and a bother these suits really are.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

He summed up it up nicely

“This appears to me as some sort of inappropriate overstating the rank and weight of established business models. First, a group of companies is living on the basis of a certain sort of business model. Then, a technical revolution occurs. After that, the business model does not work any longer. Now, this group of companies cries foul, ultimatively demanding new laws to protect their deprecated business model despite the changed technological and social environment. And, if critics argue that such new laws might cause severe collateral damages elsewhere, they simply don’t care.”

“And in view of the bad reputation IP law already has in the Internet-savvy younger generation this might, in later years, be another coffin to this field of law as we know it.”

Big Ole GRIN … This guy definitely has it right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Death to an Industry!!!

Don’t write them off that quick, they have an astonishingly strong lobby here.

Btw, it is fascinating, that I HAVE to read foreign media to learn about this at all. No mention of this massive increase in demands anywhere in german media at all! And for now, that includes blogs.

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