European publishers push for ownership of content

The European Publishers Council (EPC) is lobbying for a change in European copyright law that would take ownership of articles away from journalists and give it to publishers.

The European Publishers Council (EPC) has launched a lobbying campaign for a change in European copyright law that would take ownership of articles away from journalists and give it to publishers.

Development of the Internet in Europe could depend on this change in copyright law, says the group, which represents 24% of Europe's information sector. A change in copyright law would guarantee publishers continuing rights over material regardless of the published form. The EPC's chairman, Sir Frank Rogers, wondered if publishers would be willing to invest in growth areas such as online services without the change.

"At stake is the survival of our content-providing sector," Kerstinne Rinne, vice-president of Finland's Sanoma, says. "Economic rights for both known and future uses should be vested in the employer."

Currently once an article has been published, ownership reverts to the individual who wrote it in all European countries, except the UK and the Netherlands, where it stays with the publisher, Rinne says.

Although in theory the author of an article has a right to be paid once it runs on the Internet, it is too expensive to apply this right, Rinne says.

The publishers presented their demands to the European Commission earlier in the third quarter. They fear that the commission is focusing on technical ways to protect intellectual property on the Internet, but failing to recognise the need for radical change in the law itself, says Julius Waller of the European Magazine Publishers Association (FAEP). "Merely developing a standard to identify and track protected works is not sufficient," he says.

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