A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.

COMMUNIA response to Commission’s consultation on ancillary copyright and freedom of panorama

The European Commission’s public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain and on the ‘panorama exception’ wraps up on 15 June. COMMUNIA has submitted its response (PDF) to the questionnaire. Our answers reflect the role of COMMUNIA as a non-profit organisation that defends the public domain and advocates a copyright system that benefits users, creators, educators, researchers and cultural heritage institutions. Below we provide a summary of our responses to both parts of the consultation.

Ancillary copyright for publishers

It will come as no surprise that we oppose the creation of a new neighbouring right for publishers. Doing so would have a strong negative impact on all the audiences identified in the questionnaire, including publishers, authors, journalists, researchers, online service providers, and users.

For the majority of publishers, it would establish an unnecessary (and often unwanted) additional right that they would have to deal with, and could even make it harder for them to grow and develop innovative business models. And perhaps more to the point, the experiments with ancillary rights for press publishers in both Spain and Germany did not result in increased revenues. Instead, it likely decreased the visibility (and by extension, revenues) of their content—exactly the opposite of what was intended.

It would undermine the intention of authors who wish to share without additional strings attached because the right could be interpreted as unwaivable. We’ve seen that the implementation of a remunerative performance right undermines the ability of the author to share works under Creative Commons licenses. Adopting a new neighbouring right for publishers would likely have a similar effect.

Adopting a new neighboring right for publishers would harm journalists who rely on information-gathering and reporting tools like news aggregators, services like Google Alerts, and social media. Journalists would encounter additional hurdles in finding and using news and information they need to do their jobs. They would find that these existing news products and services will likely be disrupted, their prices increased, or even discontinued altogether.

It would have significant negative consequences for researchers and educational institutions by adding an unnecessary layer of rights that will make it more difficult for educators and researchers to understand how they can use content as part of their education and research activities. It could also increase costs to institutions for licensing fees, and even exacerbate the increasing disparity in the quality of education provided across member states.

Creating a neighbouring right for publishers would add unnecessary obstacles for online service providers, including cultural heritage institutions and aggregation platforms such as Europeana.eu—who are already suffering from the complexity of rights and the costs of rights clearance.

Finally, it would create additional barriers for users and online information-seekers. In addition, these users would potentially face more constraints in quoting, linking to, aggregating, or otherwise finding and using works. Many users that rely on curated news aggregators like Google News, or even RSS readers or other apps that reproduce snippets of content from news articles. If an additional right for publishers is established, users would find that these existing news products and services will likely be disrupted, their prices increased, or even discontinued altogether (as we’ve seen in Spain with Google News). Popular social networking apps and websites used by hundreds of millions of people could be negatively affected too.

Adopting additional rights on top of a copyright system that is fundamentally broken is neither contributing to the Commission’s objective of modernizing the EU copyright framework nor adapting it to the challenges of a fast-evolving digital environment. Creating new rights (which are next to impossible to retract) is not a suitable method for managing the relationship between different market segments and the public. The (online) publishing sector is evolving at a rapid pace, and intervening in the relations with a static and blunt instrument is expected to cause substantial collateral damage to education and access to knowledge.

Freedom of Panorama

The sharing of photos taken in public places is an example of an everyday activity that should not be regulated by copyright. We know that the lack of harmonization around the freedom of panorama has negatively affected users who wish to share images of public architecture and sculpture on sites like Wikipedia. We support the adoption of a broad right for freedom of panorama, and it should apply to both commercial and noncommercial uses of images of architecture, sculpture, and other objects in public spaces. The exception should be mandatory across the EU, and should cover both online and offline uses.

Make your voice heard!

It’s important that the Commission hears from you! Be sure to submit your responses to the survey by 15 June. There’s also a helpful answering guide that can be found at http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/.

King Charles II of England addresses members of the Estates General, 1660, Theodor Matham, after Jacob Toorenvliet, 1660
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