Empower Democracy
Blog Post

See All Blog Posts

No-one can finance content indefinitely with no reward – not even when the stakes are as high as the future of our free press

12th March 2019

You have one last vote on a directive that, if adopted, would be a major step towards supporting the future of professional journalism and our cherished independent press.

Over 230 organisations representing the creative sector have written a joint letter to you this week asking for your support.

Google, and the associations they fund, are everywhere, briefing against the proposed copyright reform: in the press, on social media, on their own global advertising platform telling everyone how they ’’deeply care for journalism’’ and for the creative sector. Google agrees with copyright – just not when it applies to them.

This copyright reform is of course unpopular with platforms like Google: article 11 will mean that publishers will have the right to set terms and conditions for others to reuse publishers’ content for their own commercial purposes. The Publisher’s Right is a tool to encourage negotiation rather than litigation with any company that wishes to commercialise publishers’ intellectual property. And this tool will be available to every publisher, including the very smallest. Even large media companies are currently not in a position to negotiate a fair settlement with the dominant players in the digital world. The hope is that the Publisher’s Right will help transform this power asymmetry, making it easier for all publishers, whatever their size, to be involved in the value of their content in the future.

This reform allows platforms to display very short extracts and individual words - enough for consumers to decide whether or not the content is relevant to them and to drive them to publishers’ sites. This would allow publishers to monetise their own investments on their own sites, instead of watching the platforms’ revenues grow. Indeed, while publishers make all the investment in professional journalism and content and carry all the commercial risk and legal liability, other commercial companies, including Google, build traffic on their own sites and reap the financial rewards.

Meanwhile, the populist cry that the directive will censor the internet, deludes millions of people to sign petitions. In fact, Article 13 includes explicit exceptions that increase the opportunity for users to upload copyrighted works, including memes and gifs, and includes a fast and effective complaints mechanism that deals with the unlawful blocking of uploaded content. Far from introducing any censorship of the internet or upload filters, the reform creates legal certainty – and this is good for everyone, consumers, platforms and publishers alike.

When you come to vote in Plenary, please consider the lasting impact of your decision:

• A vote in favour of the directive will make copyright fit for the digital world; create a fairer balance between creators and distributors; provide legal certainty for all users and make the future of professional journalism and our democracy-enhancing free press more secure.

• A vote against the directive will mean the status quo where all the negotiating power stays with the platforms. This is unsustainable for publishers, journalists and, indeed, other creators who won’t be able to take control of monetising their creations and investments. The creative economy will suffer. Our diverse, independent press that stimulates debate, holds our leaders to account and provides comment, information and entertainment is at stake. No one can finance content indefinitely with no reward – not even when the stakes are as high as the future of our free press.

© Jacob Ammentorp Lund / iStock.com