26 April 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

EPC calls on MEPs to support EU publishing right

The European Publishers Council (EPC) has called for widespread political support for the controversial publishing right that forms part of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market proposals.

Christian Van Thillo, CEO of de Persgroep and chair of the EPC, used World Intellectual Property Day (26 April) to acknowledge copyright as “a system that promotes the widest dissemination of things we enjoy”.

But, as publishers of journalism, he said that the EPC’s potential to “invest in professional journalism is undermined by a situation whereby publishers bear all the costs and responsibilities of producing what our readers enjoy, while other commercial operators help themselves by systematically scraping our websites and reaping the financial rewards”.

“Copyright is not working online,” he added.

But a new right, proposed by the European Commission in September 2016, would provide publishers with the rights already afforded to authors, performers, and film and record producers.

If implemented, the right will allow publishers to acquire licence fees from third parties who use their content, up to 20 years from publication.

The proposal was controversial, with various industry groups, including the Centre for International Intellectual Property Studies (CEIPI), denouncing its effectiveness.

CEIPI said the link right would be “detrimental for authors’ interests”, and would ultimately “undermine the overall functioning of the copyright system”.

But Van Thillo said the right would give publishers control over the copyright in the content they publish.

He said: “This would help publishing and professional journalism continue to play a valuable role in promoting cultural diversity, entertaining, informing, holding our leaders to account and upholding our precious democracy.”

“A free and independent press is a necessity, not a luxury in a democratic society and regulators have the opportunity, and indeed the responsibility, to safeguard its future.”

“I call on MEPs and national ministers to support the proposal for a neighbouring right,” he added.

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