Irish Copyright debate watched closely by European newspapers.
The European Newspaper Publishers Association (ENPA) in Dublin for its general assembly in advance of Ireland assuming the EU Presidency, joined an NNI delegation at a meeting today with Mr Sean Sherlock TD, Minister for Research and Innovation.
All European eyes are focused on Ireland and the current copyright review, and at today’s meeting Mr Ivar Rusdal, the ENPA President, echoed the strong concerns already expressed by NNI about the implications of any weakening of Irish copyright law.
Mr Rusdal advised Minister Sherlock that the digital environment has not reduced but increased the need for copyright protection. “Publishers must be able to rely on copyright protection to develop new business models, to invest in new products and services, and to sustainably deliver content to European consumers.
“To the contrary, several other European countries are taking legislative and administrative steps to ensure that news publishers are compensated when their material is used for commercial purposes by search engines and aggregators,” he said. “There must be no weaking of the EU copyright framework, which also applies in Ireland, by the introduction of new exceptions or limitations.
Revenue drain from unauthorised use of copyright material
In its submissions to the Copyright Review Group, NNI has already highlighted the problems associated with the unauthorised use of copyright material published by newspapers. Matt Dempsey, Chairman of NNI said: “some news aggregators and search engines show a blatant disregard for copyright leading to significant amounts of potential and actual revenue being drained from our indsutry.”
“In 2010,” Mr Dempsey said, “a single search engine operating in Ireland offered around 150,000 newspaper articles at a cost to the publishers (research, journalism, vetting for legal/standards, editing, overheads) equivalent to around €46.5 million. In 2011, the same search engine offered more than 350,000 articles at a cost equivalent to more than €110 million.
“The clarification of Irish copyright law and the strengthening of its enforcement is therefore a golden opportunity to realise this potential revenue; to enhance the economic performance of the newspaper industry and other affected industries, and to safeguard the thousands of jobs that are dependent on copyright as a protection for original work.
“By the same token, any loosening of Irish copyright law would have serious implications for these industries, these revenue streams and these jobs.”
Copyright fears for Irish and European newspapers
Mr Rusdal and Mr Dempsey advised Minister Sherlock that there is a fear at both European and Irish level that the future of newspapers could be put at serious risk by the ongoing copyright review process in Ireland.
Mr Dempsey said: “NNI calls on the Irish Government to demonstrate its commitment to protecting original work and recognising its value, as is happening in other countries like Germany and France, and, in doing so, it will help to safeguard the future of the Irish newspaper industry and the 4,500 jobs maintained by the industry.
“Respect for intellectual property right has been a key component in the attraction of foreign direct investment to Ireland, notably in the area of software development and other creative content and services. Indigenous creative industries must be afforded that same respect,” concluded Mr Dempsey.
Mr Rusdal reminded the Minister that “producing original content requires significant investment on the part of publishers – investment that will simply not be sustainable if thirs parties are permitted to mis-use that material for their own commercial purposes without any compensation for those who have put time, effort and money into its creation.”
NNI calls for a single Minister for Media
Mr Pat Rabbitte TD, Minister for Communications, was guest of honour at a dinner hosted by NNI for ENPA delegates from 16 European countries last night.
Both Mr Dempsey and Mr Rusdal addressed the dinner on issued of European and domestic relevance with Mr Dempsey repeating NNI’s call for a single Minister for Media, which Mr Rusdal confirmed is the case in a number of other European countries, including his own, Norway.
Mr Dempsey said: “The media landscape has changed so dramatically, and continues to change at such a rapid pace, that only a dedicated Minister for Media could be expected to keep on top of all the issues currently taking place,” he said.
Unfair competition in Irish media market
The unique nature of the Irish media marketplace was also highlighted. Private commercial entities such as newspapers are competing for advertising with the State-funded service broadcaster, which has created unfair competition, according to NNI.
“For years, the scope of RTE’s public service remit has been unclear,” Mr Dempsey said. “Public service activities have been mixed up with commercial activities, in particular on the RTE website, to the extent that the State broadcaster is now effectively using the proceeds of the license fee to become a news publisher and win further advertising revenue.
“This gives RTE a massive competitive advantage, especially in the digital market where newspapers are already struggling to create viable business models,” he said.
“We believe RTE should be confined to its public service remit, which should be clearly defined. Given the level of license fee funding RTE receives, there should be clear limits on its commercial activity, which should be transparent and at arms length. Its website should be restricted to its broadcast activity with no advertising allowed and no links to other commercial websites such as dating, cars etc.,” Mr Dempsey concluded.
ENPA urges Irish Government to support EU VAT changes
Mr Rusdal asked the Irish Government to use its influence at European level to address inconsistencies in the way newspapers are taxed.
” A single reduced rate of VAT should be applied to both printed newspapers and their digital editions,” he said. “Publishers are being encouraged to embrace the digital age and to invest in the online space, yet online newspapers are currently subject to the standard rate of VAT while printed editions are taxed at a reduced rate.
(In Ireland, the VAT rate on the printed newspaper is 9 per cent whilst the standard rate of 23% applies to digital newspapers.)
“If the Government wants to help publishers to expand their digital offerings, the two VAT rates should be aligned at the lowest possible level,” he said.
For further information on any of the issues please contact Ann Marie Lenihan at NNI.
Tel: 01 668 9099