I am a researcher, why should I care?

What's at stake?

Neighbouring Rights

Some news publishers want to clarify that linking requires their consent and/or that they should be paid when someone links to their content under certain circumstances. They have sued to ask that browsing their content on the internet requires their permission; that linking is unlawful; and argue that the European courts' decision that linking to content on the internet required permission needs "clarification". They also argue that they need a new right to collect their share of "reprography" income (money charged by copyright collecting societies for printers, copy machines, etc.), after the European courts decided that money should go to authors, not to them. Several news publishers disagree with this approach (here, here and here) - but have not been heard.

Freedom of panorama

For freedom panorama, there is no EU-wide exception allowing the use of photos of buildings (from the Atomium to the light-up Eiffel tower) or of sculptures which are copyright protected. So depending on the country you're in, uploading such a photo on Facebook on on Wikipedia can be copyright infringement. For example, a Swedish court recently ruled, following a complaint from a collecting society, that such images on Wikipedia where not permitted.

Iím a researcher, should I be worried about this?

This new right is likely to make it more expensive for your research institution to access online services of scientific and technical publishers, and more expensive to photocopy content or use it in the classroom or lecture hall.

Itís certain to make all of that more complex too,and to make it more complex to use research techniques such as text and data mining. Some research activities are actually likely to migrate to other countries to stay competitive.

It is also certain to make it harder for you to control your own copyright: if you write research, and publish it with a publisher, they will have a separate copyright on your work, in addition to your own. That means they can stop you from publishing elsewhere, publishing in an open repository, or in a book, if they do not agree. They can do that for the entire duration of their right - and existing EU neighbouring rights currently last between 50 and 70 years.

How does the publisher right work with the internet, linking, sharing?

If text extracts or "snippets" are subject to copyright, it's not quite the same as saying linking is subject to copyright? True, but try using URLs, with no snippets, no titles (and not URLs that are human readable), and you'll get the idea. Get used to sharing just URLs on Twitter or Facebook.

Is there more at stake? There are around one billion websites, and billions more webpages online today. If it's in writing (like a newspaper, a book or a science review) then it gets a new copyright. So we're also looking at "re-copyrighting" the internet with this new right. Whether it's needed or not; whether or not we know who owns the publisher ancillary right in all those pages; whether or not when you post a comment or write a blog you want someone to have a new copyright in that.

Oh, and this new right would be unique, no-one else in the world has thought about it. So Europe's internet will be an island, with its own rules - set by copyright.

If I don't support this right, does it mean I'm against a free and diverse press?

No! In fact, it's the opposite. The creation of this right tends to hurt particularly smaller providers of news who don't have a strong brand and are using the Internet to make a name for themselves and find new readers. In Spain, the ancillary right has not benefited news publishers: while general internet traffic in Spain went up since the law, the traffic to news website went down!

What the ancillary right does is make it harder to link, share news content, and so it makes it harder for news to be found online. It's especially harder to find more diverse sources of news. And it's harder to be found it you're a blogger or an online news website such as El Diario in Spain or Mediapart in France.

And, of course, this right does nothing for journalists. Quite the opposite, its aim is in part to allow publishers to get a larger share of the copyright income they share with journalists and have even more control over journalists' content.

Is the publisher right a Google tax, a snippet tax, a link tax, or a neighbouring right?

No-one can blame you for being confused.

It's often referred to as a Google tax, but it's not a tax (it's copyright) and it won't impact just Google (copyright is a property right: it affects everyone, not a single company). People have called it a "link tax" or a "snippet tax" because in Spain and Germany, it seeks to extend copyright to "snippets" or short extracts of text. Those snippets are used in services like Google News (but also Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to link, and to describe the link. Without a "snippet", a link is just a plain URL. The idea is that when a snippet is used which includes news publisher content which the publisher has put online, permission of the publisher (and payment) is required.

Bear with us! This consultation, though, is about combining this new copyright in online snippets with a broader copyright for publishers of news, books, science, etc. They already have copyright - from the contracts they have with their writers. But they want their own copyright on top, in parallel. And because that's how copyright works, everything published on the internet will get this new copyright.

If you think it's complicated now, wait until this new right is in force. Or better, fight against it ever coming into force.

How would this new right work with creative commons, open publishing, open science?

Not well at all. Despite over one billion Creative Commons licensed works in 2015, the Directory of Open Access Journals listing over 2 800 journals using Creative Commons licences, those needs are often ignored.

The Spanish ancillary right ignores Creative Commons. Whether you like it or not, whether you contribute to an open science journal, publish blogs under Creative Commons, or publish a creative commons newspaper (such as El Diario, the 6th daily in Spain): if snippets are used to link to your works, or used to index them online, a Spanish collecting agency will charge, and collect money.

"As the new right would apply to all 'content disclosed in periodic publications or on websites which are regularly updated' it would not only apply to traditional news publications but pretty much any website that is regularly updated (such as a blog). [...] Even worse the new law also threatens render ineffective the Creative Commons licenses that are used by many creators to explicitly allow others to reuse their creations for free in many situations" - Source: Paul Keller, Did Spain just declare war on the Commons?

Why is such a new right bad for the public domain and for access to knowledge and information?

There is value in the public domain as shown again in a recent European study.

This new copyright harms the ability to access information - whether in a library card, via a general search engine or the search engine of an open-science publication, or even a table of content.

A copyright on short extracts of text directly opposes long recognised freedoms and exemptions to copyright, such as the right to quote (the only internationally mandatory exception) or the principle that news, facts, ideas, are not protected by copyright.

A neighbouring copyright for publishers will create new rights that typically last 50 to 70 years. And typically these 50 or 70 years start with the publication. For example, if today an unreleased recording of the Beatles is released by a label, the neighbouring right starts from then - not when the song was created. So some publications might get a new publisher copyright even though the work itself is not protected anymore.

It's not clear and unlikely that this new right would in any way encourage creativity or publishers. But what is clear is that this new copyright will be yet another obstacle to the dissemination of published works.