The Controversial Ancillary Copyright for Press Publishers Takes Two Big Hits

BY Heather Greenfield
June 16, 2015

Brussels, BELGIUM – Today, news-publisher-backed legislative proposals often called “ancillary copyrights” took major blows in both Brussels and Austria. Also referred to as a ‘snippet levy’, these laws aim to make online services like search engines and news aggregators pay for the display of hyperlinks and short snippets (pieces of text).

First, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted down a proposed amendment to MEP Reda’s report on copyright which would have encouraged the Commission to look into an ancillary copyright for press publishers. Second, the Austrian government decided to withdraw the provision which would have introduced an ancillary copyright from its copyright reform proposal.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA Europe) has followed this debate for several years. Just like in the cases of Germany and Spain, we urged the Austrian government to drop the introduction of an ancillary copyright. Not only is there no economic justification for it, but these proposals also conflict with EU and international copyright law. The following can be attributed to Jakob Kucharczyk, Director, CCIA Europe:

“This is a bad day for ancillary copyright proponents but a very good day for Internet users. The vote in the European Parliament’s Committee for Legal Affairs on MEP Reda’s copyright report sends a clear message that there is no support for an ancillary copyright. At the same time, the Austrian government deserves praise for listening to the overwhelming expert advice warning against the introduction of an ancillary copyright. It doesn’t work in Germany, it doesn’t work in Spain, it won’t work in Austria.”

“Ancillary copyright laws will always suffer from a fundamental flaw which is that the problem they try to solve is a complete mystery. The relationship between online services and press publishers is an inherently symbiotic one. The ancillary copyright risks locking in market positions in both press publishing and the digital economy — as only the biggest players are able to deal with them. At the same time, they threaten media plurality as small publications without a known brand heavily rely on online services for more readership. On top of that we don’t see how the ancillary copyright can be reconciled with European and international copyright law.”

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