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Publishers at the vanguard of digital start-ups

16th January 2018

Over the past decades, press publishers have made the leap into the digital age. As forerunners of online journalism and media, newspaper and magazine publishers been a driving force of digital innovation in the European Union. Through investments, cooperation and initiatives, such as start-up accelerators, press publishers have not only developed their own digital business models, but have also contributed to the development of strong, creative and diverse digital enterprises, including many start-ups, in media and in other sectors.

However, for this evolution to be sustainable, we must ensure a competitive but fair digital environment. Currently, the internet ecosystem is dominated by a handful players which skew rules on competition, taxation and copyright in their favour. This represents the biggest risk to ongoing business operations and the biggest barrier to market entry for new players and therefore a major obstacle to innovation.

Press publishers’ innovative investments have made them more popular than ever.

Publishers have made an important transition from analogue to digital with high investments translating into high degrees of innovation and enormous growth in audience and popularity. However, this shift presents some major challenges for publishers. As publisher’s content is made available on an array of different websites, traffic and advertising revenues are diverted.

It is vital that the EU copyright regime also catches up with today’s realities by introducing a Publishers’ Right, which will allow publishers, large and small, to monetise their investments on- and offline.

The protection of intellectual property is one of the cornerstones of innovation. It recognises the intrinsic social and economic value of creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness. It rewards those that contribute something new and forward-looking and therefore benefits innovative start-ups, content producers and publishers alike.

The Publisher’s Right put forward in the current copyright reform reflects the publisher’s investment, the financial and material contribution to the production of content. As investors, publishers bear the economic risks as well as the editorial responsibility for the content they publish and it should therefore be their responsibility by whom, where and when their content can be used. The Publisher’s Right will not stifle innovation, nor will it lead to legal uncertainty. Quite on the contrary. The Publisher’s Right will not constitute a barrier to market entry. In many instances, press publishers have provided start-ups with their content on fair and reasonable terms. A young and still small company might need some time to develop and to generate revenues and collective management societies in Germany and in Spain have taken this into account by implementing and negotiating progressive tariffs.

In the end, this leads to a mutually beneficial relationship, where start-ups benefit from the content and know-how of press publishers and publishers benefit from the financial success of the start-up.

The Publisher’s Right will improve legal certainty and encourage innovation

In order for press publishers to keep on investing in the costly enterprise of sustaining an international network of correspondents and send journalists all over the world, their content needs to be protected from systematic scraping and reuse by third parties.

Clarifying the legal status of press publishers will improve their negotiation position when it comes to third parties’ use of their works, and bring more legal certainty over their rights will help encourage investment and increase the possibilities for publishers of all sizes across Europe to develop new product offerings, to the benefit of their readers. 

Please get involved in our initiative, www.empower-democracy.eu, if you are committed to a democratic Europe with an independent and pluralistic media landscape.

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