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Synopsis report on the results of the public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain

This report (de) summarises the outcome of the public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain which was conducted by the Commission together with a consultation on the ‘panorama exception’.

The objective of the ‘publishers’ section of the consultation was to gather views in particular on the impact that granting an EU neighbouring right to publishers could have on the publishing sector, on citizens, service providers and creative industries and as to whether the need (or not) for intervention was different in the press sector as compared to other publishing sectors.

The vast majority of press publishers indicated that they are currently facing problems when licensing online uses of their press or other print content due to the fact that they are doing so on the basis of rights transferred or licensed to them by authors. Similarly, the vast majority of these respondents stated that they encounter problems when enforcing their rights for the same reasons. They also took the view that such a right would recognise the added value they provide regarding the production of press content, also in terms of investments, and that it would put them on an equal footing with other holders of neighbouring rights such as film producers.

A minority of press publishers, in particular from Spain, took a different view. They referred to the Spanish and German “ancillary rights” laws and expressed a concern that the introduction of a neighbouring right at EU level would make it more difficult for service providers to drive audiences to newspapers and magazines’ websites and as a consequence would reduce traffic and advertising revenues for publishers. These respondents were doubtful that a neighbouring right would improve licensing and enforcement.

Journalists’ representatives shared the publishers’ concerns that the publishing industry should be strengthened in their bargaining position with online service providers. They were open to the introduction of a new neighbouring right for publishers and suggested that this new right should be subject to collective management. At the same time they highlighted that this intervention should not affect authors’ rights.

Certain individual journalists responding to the public consultation expressed concerns that a neighbouring right for publishers could have an impact on their own authors’ right, weaken their bargaining position in relation to publishers and make it more difficult to exploit their rights independently from them.

Writers were generally more negative than journalists as regards the possible introduction of a right for book publishers. They stressed the need to protect authors more than the other players in the value chain due to their weak bargaining position and were concerned that a publishers’ right in the book sector would go against this objective. At the same time, as journalists, writers were supportive of solutions (other than a neighbouring right) allowing publishers to receive compensation for uses under exceptions. Translators took a position similar to that of writers.

Researchers pointed out that although the role of the scientific authors in the publication process is undeniably the most significant one, they barely ever get compensated for their work. Allocating more rights to publishers would exacerbate this perceived problem. These respondents were also worried that this measure – notably if also aimed at scientific publishers – could make it more difficult for researchers to publish under open access licences and more generally to spread and share the results of their research widely.

The majority of online service providers (advertising, hosting and other service providers such as search engines and social networks) were generally opposed to the introduction of a neighbouring right (whether this right covered only press publishers or all publishers). Some considered that this would have a negative effect on their activities as well as on other stakeholders (such as authors, consumers).

In their view online services drive traffic to publishers’ sites and increase the visibility of their brands, while publishers can control the use of their publications by relying on authors’ rights transferred to them. Some feared that a new neighbouring right would risk imposing the negotiation of additional licences on them and lead to an increase in transaction costs related to the identification of the relevant rightholders.

These respondents also considered that there could be potential difficulties when defining the protected subject-matter and the rightholders. In their view, legal uncertainty could arise that would be mainly affecting uses as indexing or providing snippets of or hyperlinks to published content. As a result, they consider that a new right would create barriers to the entry into the market of online distribution of press content.

Institutional users of copyright protected content (such as research institutions, libraries and universities organisations) were concerned that a new neighbouring right for publishers would create additional complexity and legal uncertainty for them. They fear that such a right would make it more difficult to carry out text and data mining or to use content under existing exceptions to copyright.