More than two years in the making, the report of the Copyright Review Committee (‘Modernising Copyright’) was finally published in October 2013 and formally presented to a largely critical audience at a public meeting in the Royal Irish Academy on Monday 9th December.
On the plus side, the report acknowledged the contribution of newspapers (and other content-creators) to Ireland’s digital economy. Our industry is also an ‘innovator’, providing content and other services across a range of digital platforms.
Elsewhere, however, the report made for worrying reading for newspaper publishers as well as those engaged in other creative industries.
In recommending the introduction of various exceptions to copyright law (including exceptions for “innovation”, “fair use”, “marshalling” and others) the committee is in effect proposing a watering-down of existing copyright protection. This will limit the extent to which newspapers can prevent others from commercially exploiting their content without permission or fair remuneration.
This has serious implications. NewsBrands Ireland publishers invest hundreds of millions of euro annually to create original newspaper content – an investment that up to now has been underpinned by robust copyright protection. Any loosening of this protection will jeopardise publishers’ investment in content, which in turn will threaten media diversity and pluralism as well as press freedom.
Meanwhile, the copyright discussion has been raised to the European level: a welcome step. The European Commission has launched a public consultation “to gather input from all stakeholders on the review of EU copyright rules” and this – rather than the process initiated in Ireland – should be where the next steps are decided.
In any case, as the debate unfolds NewsBrands Ireland hopes that all decision-makers will recognise that copyright law is there to protect original newspaper content from commercial exploitation by others without permission. The value of that content, not to mention thousands of jobs in the newspaper industry and related sectors, depend on it.