Publishers Seem To Believe Their Outsized Sense Of Entitlement Should Trump Democracy

from the always-seeking-more dept

One of the striking features of the copyright industry is its insatiability. No matter how long, broad and strong copyright becomes, the copyright world wants it to be yet longer, broader and stronger. It seems companies simply cannot conceive of any point where there is “enough” copyright in the world.

A good example is in the newspaper publishing sector. Despite the fact that newspaper articles are already covered by copyright, the publishers decided this was not enough. In Europe, they demanded an “ancillary copyright”, more colloquially known as the snippet tax, which would give them copyright protection for even a few words. That’s not just unfair – it goes flat against the Berne Convention – but pointless, too, because the idea has been tried twice, in Germany and Spain, and failed dismally both times.

Nonetheless, the newspapers ploughed on, deploying their not inconsiderable lobbying might – and gained their prize in the form of Article 15 of the EU Copyright Directive. They won, against fairness and logic, once again. And yet, even though many EU Member States have not yet passed the relevant national legislation, the publishers are already back demanding more. Not only that, but they have made their move in a particularly devious and damaging way.

Last week, the final text of the important Digital Markets Act was agreed on after two years of detailed negotiations. At its heart is an attempt to rein in so-called online “gatekeepers” – essentially the big online platforms like Google and Facebook – and to forbid “unfair” business practices. At that very last moment, Euractiv revealed, a completely new element, never formally discussed during the passage of the law through the EU’s legislative process, was suddenly on the table:

a new proposal of the European Commission to extend FRAND [fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory] conditions not only to access but also remuneration for the providers of digital content has been kept under the radar until now. The proposal has long been a flagship request from publishers in the context of the Copyright Directive.

According to a proposal for a new article (Art. 6.1.kb.), seen by EURACTIV, the gatekeeper would have to publish the general conditions for remuneration and the related methodology and respond in good faith to content providers’ request to apply them.

As the article points out, this would effectively turn the European Commission into a price regulator for publishers, with the threat of applying the DMA’s potentially huge fines – 10% of global turnover, rising to 20% for repeated infringements – if online companies refused to comply. Fortunately, the surprise proposal was not included as part of the final text, thanks to some pushback from the European Parliament’s side. Had it been adopted, it would not only have gone much further than the already heavily criticized Article 15 of the EU Copyright Directive, it would have passed into law without any democratic scrutiny whatsoever.

It is no surprise that the publishers were not satisfied when they obtained Article 15’s ancillary copyright. Nor is it surprising that they had no compunction in trying to sneak in an even more unjustified extension of copyright through the back door. What is surprising is that the European Commission acquiesced in this subversion of democracy. In the past, the Commission has liked to pretend that it was impartial, an honest broker that was simply managing the process. But this latest move, which goes against any kind of established EU protocol, suggests the European Commission is now just an out-and-out accomplice to the copyright industry, happy to support even its most outrageous and selfish demands.

The danger is that this and similar demands will re-appear – just as inappropriately – in future EU legislation. The Digital Services Act is still in the pipeline, and the European Media Freedom Act is currently being drafted. Both will need watching closely to ensure that the European Commission (or any of the other institutions) does not meekly accept the endless demands of publishers to push their maximalist copyright agenda everywhere and anywhere.

Follow me @glynmoody on TwitterDiaspora, or Mastodon.

Originally published to WalledCulture.

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Comments on “Publishers Seem To Believe Their Outsized Sense Of Entitlement Should Trump Democracy”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

If it was a good idea it would not have been secret

Beyond the gross dishonest of such an attempt it’s quite telling that they tried to slip it in at the last minute as it shows that even they know that they wouldn’t have public support for what they’re doing and in fact would likely face significant pushback if sufficient time is allowed for the public to respond.

Having shown their hands like this they must have been seriously put out that it didn’t work, all the more so as they’ve shown just how important it is to watch very closely the bills being tossed around for when(not if) they try again.

Anonymous Coward says:

It goes against fair use and the open Internet that a newspaper can ask money for a few words or 1 sentence search engines need to quote headlines to show users is it worth clicking on this article to read it it takes time to go to a website, also it shows they are prepared to attack democracy and political freedom to discuss news eg
The want the future to be google and Facebook will have to pay to link to news of any kind small websites or startups won’t be able to pay fees
It shows legacy media will never be happy the want to extend copyright constantly
They tried this in Spain and it was a disaster for small publishers
But then Hollywood is trying to force upload media filters on all websites
even if it breaks the open Internet and fair use

Anonymous Coward says:

tell me one of the entertainment industries that doesn’t feel the same way! they all think they are entitled to have everything they want, in all ways they want, for all payment amounts they want, while doing the very least possible to earn or gain that money and at the same time take over all aspects of the Internet that they like while stopping/banning all aspects they dont like along with access to sites they dont like and upload/download methods they dont like, unless they are, of course, beneficial only to them! fucking greedy assholes!! and using whatever means possible, including the courts, the security services and the politicians they can ‘convince’ to help them as well! joe public gets thrown into the curb, under the bus and into jail, all in the name of entertainment (and massive payments to the heads of and those mentioned above behaving as ass-lickers!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Google and Fb have already done a deal with large Australian publishers to pay for acess to news . It go’s against freedom of speech and the open Web if blogs or websites have to pay just to post a link to an article or quote a headline and it makes Google more powerful than startups that might want to display links to news

CauseOfBSOD (profile) says:

And eventually we will get to a point if we so much as say any word, we immediately get sued for intellectual property infringement of some kind.

Copyright maximalism is a train wreck that legislators keep rerailing and sending down the same steep hill, and they don’t care how much damage it inflicts to the surroundings (and, in fact, itself) as long as it is what the lobbyists tell them (I don’t know if this happens in the US, but in the UK it seems like half the incumbent party are being paid by various large companies, which they then lobby for, and then when the standards committee occasionally proposes a relatively minor punishment for a large infraction, they then try and completely change the rules. It’s so corrupt) because they get paid extra (assuming it is anything like the situation I described) for it.

And people wonder why IDGAF about copyright at times.

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