Monday 3 August 2009

‘Copyright – no “buts”,’ say online newspapers

Newspaper publishers fear the creation of new copyright exceptions that would apply to their content on the internet. They have been staking their claim in a pre-emptive move.

On 9 July newspaper publishers delivered the ‘Hamburg Declaration’ (right) to Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. The Declaration is both reactionary and progressive. At the same time as welcoming the existing protection of copyright on the internet, it calls for it to be improved. The language is very abstract, so I asked the European Publishers Council what it’s all about.

A big part of it is ACAP (the Automated Content Access Protocol) though that’s only half the story, the progressive half. The Protocol is a system for publishers to express a copyright licence that applies to their content. It’s machine-readable, so can by read by search engines and news aggregators – a mechanical equivalent of Creative Commons. Currently publishers can withhold content from search engines all together but ACAP can formulate more complex licences (e.g. you may copy text but not pictures). So far only one search engine has adopted ACAP – the publishers want it to be widely used.

But why present the Declaration to the EU? The reason is not so much what the publishers want Europe to do as what they want it not to do (the reactionary agenda). Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council, told me they are not looking for new legislation. What they want to do is counter ‘a very loud voice out there that says that there should be no laws for the internet, that is entirely anti-copyright and that thinks that copyright will destroy the ethos of the net’. So what specifically are they looking for from Viviane Reding?

‘We want her to support the existing copyright regime. We want her to recognise that we need a stable copyright environment upon which to build viable, revenue-generating business models. This may sound obvious but at the same time she is under pressure from other quarters, notably the user community, to REDUCE copyright protection by introducing new exceptions. We do not think this serves the long-term interests of consumers because less creative content would be made available online if users were able to help themselves to parts of it under new exceptions to copyright without either paying for it in the first place, or getting a licence to re-use it in new so-called “transformative” user-created content.’


goldenrail said...

" It’s machine-readable, so can by read by search engines and news aggregators – a mechanical equivalent of Creative Commons." - Just to clarify (and I may be reading your sentence wrong; apologies if I am), Creative Commons licenses are also machine readable. The licenses are written in three types of 'languages': human-readable, lawyer-readable and machine-readable. This is how Flickr, Google, Yahoo! and other sites enable users to search by copyright license. For more information, see

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this correction. ACAP, I am told, is the only machine-readable permissions tool (other than the outdated robotos.txt) aimed at business to business (as opposed to end user/consumer).