Publishers’ neighbouring rights as an excuse for mandatory fee

In Brussels, some large publishers have expressed their support of a copyright reform that proposes a so called “neighbouring right” for press publishers. They argue that this right would give them better legal standing over unauthorized use of their material published online.

However, unauthorized use of content is already forbidden as current copyright law stipulates that reusing copyrighted content without permission is illegal. Under the pretexts of free speech, innovation and high-quality journalism, these publishers are trying to join forces to influence the political debate of the European Union.

From our point of view, this is not the way.

The Spanish ancillary copyright has been opposed by many Spanish publishers, among which the members of AEEPP, and by a fair share of the Spanish public opinion, to the point where all parliamentary groups in the opposition voted against it during the legislative processing. The European version is also encountering strong pushback from publishers, authors and civil society. Despite numerous arguments against it, it seems that the European Commission insists on giving in to the wishes of certain major newspaper publishers who seek to survive through their ability to pressure politicians in Brussels. We have already seen several similar examples.

Recently, the president of Axel Springer, Mathias Döpfner, painted a chilling picture that argued many publishing companies would disappear if the claim for large technological companies, such as Facebook or Google, to pay a fee does not succeed.

The Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodicals (AEEPP) strongly disagrees with this view. A mandatory fee would invalidate the freedom of each company to exploit its content as it pleases. It would force all publishers to follow a unique business model – a model that we think is already, to a large extent, obsolete.

The most innovative European publishers have repeatedly argued that, contrary to what their promoters claim, laws such as the ones in Spain or Germany damage news publishers instead of supporting them. Data supports this argument: in Spain, the decline in traffic following the adoption of the law was more than 6% on average and 14% for small publications (AEEPP/NERA, 2015).

Now it seems large publishers are trying to replicate what didn’t work in Spain at European level. But Europe cannot get off the innovation wagon to serve individual interests.

If this type of legislation was to be enforced, it would be a step against the European press who has a modern and diverse vision for the future. It would make it difficult, for all of us, to grow and develop innovative models. It would prevent us from reaching new large audiences and from developing new sources of information. Lastly, it would create entry barriers to new publishers and hinder the freedom of the press, entrepreneurial freedom, and the free flow of information.


Carlos Astiz

Director General AEEPP


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