We, the Coalition of Innovative Media Publishers, represent associations of small and medium-sized publishers, media companies and native digital outlets, committed to providing high quality, daily news stories to our 140 million readers.
Our members decided to pool their resources together when they realised that the debate around copyright was hijacked by the confrontation between large tech companies and big publishing conglomerates. Meanwhile, the voice of small and local publishers was not heard; it was even dismissed.
Since its inception in 2016, we have continuously expressed our deep concerns about the detrimental effects an EU-wide neighbouring right for press publishers could have on small publishers and digital news outlets, highlighting the failed experiments in Spain and Germany. We have stressed the significance of news aggregators for small and local publishers which, through their referral traffic, help us monetise our content. We also warned policymakers that the publishers’ right will lead to less rather than more European news content online.
Google’s decision last week to refuse to enter into licensing agreements with French news publishers proves that we have held the right end of the stick all along. When we warned about repercussions in the lines of what happened in Spain, where Google and other providers shut down their news aggregation service, advocates of the neighbouring right naively dismissed our warning. They were wrong!
The creation of a publishers’ right is the wrong solution to a real concern for our sector and our society as a whole. Liberal democracies need quality journalism to keep agents of power in check and a diverse news media landscape to ensure that a plurality of voices and perspectives are heard. The EU Copyright Directive fails to achieve these objectives. On the contrary, it only generates an ‘unlikely’ stream of revenues from big tech companies to (traditional) news publishers, strengthening unhealthy clickbait business models and increasing the dependency of our industry to the GAFAs, not to mention that omitting snippets from news aggregators could have a harmful impact on referrals and online traffic. This was rightfully pointed out by Spiil, our French member, which will be the first victim of the implementation of the neighbouring right.
What could have been a debate about the future of the press industry was reduced to a battlefield to settle commercial interests between extremely powerful economic operators: US tech giants and large media publishers. Unlike what some large press publishers like to claim, European publishers do not form a united front regarding the implementation of the publishers’ right in Member States.
Now, some large publishers envision “new actions” against Google and other tech giants who will not implement the Copyright Directive in a way which is compatible with their interests. It’s their right and we remain neutral as long as their actions do not affect the interests of small and local publishers and our ability to reach new audiences. However, any action should be carefully thought through; it is one thing to point out that Google is a monopoly and to lodge a complaint to competition authorities. But even monopolies can only be forced to open up their platforms, not to pay businesses that use their platform. Small and local publishers don’t wish to end up in a situation where they will have to pay a fee to online platforms or any other news aggregator in order to benefit from a “must carry” obligation. We also need to ensure that any interpretation of the newly adopted copyright rules will not impede news aggregators, search engines, social networks and other service providers from helping us finding new readers. As ANSO, one of our members, pointed out, the text of the Directive gives the possibility to each individual publisher to decide whether to be present on a platform or not without asking for any financial compensation.
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European Innovative Media Publishers