MEPs are expected to vote in plenary in Strasbourg on the Commission’s controversial copyright proposal, as adopted by the legal affairs committee by a narrow margin, next week.
Representatives from four major publishers’ groups held a press briefing in Brussels on Thursday to explain why they believe that MEP support for the EU copyright reform, including the proposed ‘publishers’ neighbouring right’, is “vital for the future of both professional journalism and press freedom.”
The clause is part of a package of wider measures that will go to a key vote next week.
Angela Mills Wade, of the European Publishers Council, told reporters that adoption of the legislation will help protect journalism because it will ensure publishers - and journalists - receive a “fair remuneration” for editorial content.
Mills Wade, Executive Director of the EPC, said, “A publishers’ right will help to make it as unacceptable for newspapers to be copied and monetised without permission online as it has always been offline.
“Meanwhile, consumers will benefit from a diverse and content-rich internet while being able to continue to share links as publishers have always encouraged them to do.”
She said the file was “one of the most hotly contested” she had ever known, adding that it had led to an “orchestrated campaign of misinformation” by tech giants like Facebook and Google that have lobbied strongly against the proposal.
“This campaign has been designed to undermine press freedom and that is why we are here today to put the record straight.”
She added that the vote comes against a backdrop of ever-declining newspaper revenues, down by 50 per cent, in the past decade which has also seen the loss of 25 per cent of jobs in journalism in Europe.
She said, “Contrary to what has been claimed, a publishers’ right is not the big, bad thing that will break the internet. It is merely re-setting the balance between those who invest in bringing the news to us and aggregators.”
She said that tech companies were more interested in the “systematic collection and distribution” of content “solely to maximise advertising revenue.”
Further comment came from Wout van Wijk, Executive Director of News Media Europe, who said, “We need a publishers’ right to protect the hundreds of thousands of jobs in Europe’s news media sector and, in particular, to protect the future of professional journalism and its role in facilitating the democratic debate.
“This is not a silver bullet for the future of journalism but it is a key measure to support a sustainable news media.”
The publishers say that in the run up to the parliamentary votes there had been “an unprecedented level of scaremongering and misleading campaigning” on the issue from “ardent anti-copyright campaigners, US internet giants and other vested interests who commercially benefit from free-riding on publishers’ valuable content.”
Another speaker, Carlo Perrone, of the European Newspaper Publishers Association, said the vote in plenary was “an important one and is crucial for journalism, press freedom, a diverse press of local, regional, national and international titles, and for our democracy.”
He added, “Newspaper circulation is going down - in Italy it is at the rate of 10 per cent every year - and publishers and media outlets are trying to reconvert themselves in this digital world.
“We are not against the likes of Facebook and Google but we are merely asking for fair remuneration. That is what this is all about.”
Christoph Fiedler, of the European Magazine Media Association, said the publishers’ right “gives publishers the legal standing already enjoyed by music, film and broadcasters which the press needs to assert its copyright online and also encourages companies that wish to re-use and monetise publishers’ content to negotiate licences.”
It excludes individuals from the scope of the right and their right to share links will remain untouched.
The draft going to plenary will also entitle journalists to a ‘fair share’ of any additional licence revenue granted by the right and specifically excludes hyperlinks from the scope of protection.
MEPs next week will decide if the whole package, including the Article 11 clause on publishers’ rights, should go to trilogue, the next legislative stage. Four parliamentary committees have scrutinised and approved the publisher’s right over the last two years.