from the crying-wolf dept
While much of the focus on the debate over the EU Copyright Directive has focused on the upload filters of Article 13, we should be equally worried about the snippet taxes of Article 11, which journalists have already made clear will be used to enrich publishers at the expense of actual journalism (that is, if it leads to any money at all — since attempts to pass basically the same law in both Germany and Spain failed to produce the expected revenue windfall).
Former Icelandic Parliament member Asta Helgadottir recently put together quite an amazing Twitter thread detailing 170 years of German news publishers demanding special extra copyrights just for their industry — each time insisting that without it, new technologies would kill journalism. You can also read the whole thing on a single page at Threader, but here’s a (lightly edited) snippet:
1850: German Press publishers want #copyright of news because the newly arrived technology of the telegram is ruining their business model. It is rejected.
1886: German Press Publishers want news to be covered by copyright in the Berne convention. It is rejected, and copyright exception for news is established.
1908: German Press Publishers want to limit the possibility of reproduction of news by #copyright in the Berlin meeting for the Berne convention. It is rejected, as copyright is intended for inherently creative production.
1908: The Berlin conference thus reiterates their 1886 distinction of creative production and non-creative information and news with regards to #copyright protection.
1925: The conference of industrial property in the Hague rejects a proposal to make news industrial property, citing the decision of the Berne convention.
Seventy-five years of trying to make some intellectual property protection of news had failed. Trying to cover news by #copyright seemed to be hopeless.
1920s: The wireless technology threatens the established German Press Publishers. The fact that any owner of a wireless could listen to the news! Blasphemy.
1920s: “News Theft” explodes in Germany. The big press publishers are astonished by the fact that people are not willing to pay a hefty fee to buy their printed material.
1927: The Germans lobby for a resolution within League of Nations giving unpublished news #copyright protection, governmental news in the public domain, but published news were up to each national authority.
1928: The German ministry propose a law to protect news of the day and miscellaneous information with intellectual property at home. “vermischte Nachrichten tats?chlichen Inhalts und Tagesneuigkeiten”
1928: The emergence of the radio was one of the biggest reasons in the German’s new News law as it undermined the news industry.
1928-1933: The debate of the new German press law continues but is never realized because the ascension of the Nazi government and new press control laws made it redundant.
It goes on from there into modern times, and the story is always the same. German publishers demanding special extra copyrights on factual reporting, and whining over and over again about new technology upsetting its business model and threatening the “future of journalism” or whatever. And every single time they were wrong. They didn’t get the special copyrights and journalism survived (and in some cases thrived).
Given this background, why is it that EU bureaucrats are now suddenly taking those very same German publishers at their word when they insist that the internet is destroying their business, and they need these special copyrights (with the friendly name of “neighboring rights”) that serve no purpose other than as a wealth transfer from internet companies to legacy publishers who have failed to innovate?