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This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)

A reform of the copyright for press articles meets with broad resistance in the European Parliament. The background is the fear that access to the free internet will be severely restricted. Proponents are talking about a fair share of intellectual property.

Anyone who has ever shared a news article or a blogpost on Facebook or Twitter knows this: once you have inserted the link, you will see a suitable picture as well as a short excerpt from the article (so-called “snippets”). The same can be found on websites that aggregate news articles (e.g. Google News). Many publishers complain that services such as Google or Facebook profit from the work of journalists, however publishers do not get a piece of cake. For years, press publishers have been struggling with declining profits. The online news websites are particularly affected. The articles are mostly free and advertising is mostly blocked. Therefore, publishers are hoping for a new source of income if Internet companies must pay for snippets in the future.

The European Commission wants to meet this wish of the publishers with a directive. According to the current submission, publishers should be entitled to receive financial compensation or prohibit their use when showing snippets. All articles that have been published in the last 20 years are covered by the new regulation. The directive has been approved by the parliament’s committee “Internal Market and Consumer Market. A final vote is expected in late October.

Press Publishers vs. Online editorial offices.

The publishers have so far been largely positive about the planned reform. One discovers that journalists have a right to a consideration when websites use excerpts from their articles. Many online editors disagree with their own publishers. In their opinion, snippets and thumbnails of search engines and social media are a crucial factor in making one to be aware of articles on that site. When former Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger did not want to believe this, editorials published statistics on the creation of website calls. Especially local newspapers and the special-interest press are reliant on services such as Google News 1].

Model for the template: Germany

In Germany a similar law was passed in 2013, the so-called “performance Protection Law for Press publishers” (LSR). There are increasing signs that German performance law is ineffective or even detrimental to competition. After the adoption of the law, for example, Google News has no longer displayed the snippets or thumbnail images of articles of the Axel Springer Verlag. According to the largest German publishing house, this resulted in a slump in traffic and “a 6-digit damage”. Later, Google News was granted a free license so that Google News was allowed to show legal snippets again. Other publishers behaved similar towards Google News. Smaller search engines, on the other hand, still must pay money to the publishers.

The directive could also have significant consequences for individual online user. Depending on the interpretation of the text of the law, the headline in the URL or shortest snippet could be a copyright infringement. Critics fear that the way we distribute content would become massively worse. In response to the directive, several MEPs have launched the “Save the Link” campaign2].

It remains to be seen how the directive is evolving. In its present form, however, there seems to be an opposite effect: it weakens the publishers, which it actually should protect. And giants like Google still own the market power, while other sites are restricted.

1] A list of different news websites can be found here: https://twitter.com/i/moments/781931706416791552

2] https://savethelink.org/

 

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