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...