Virtual Reality - Do Publishers Really Exist?
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 14:49
Andrew Hughes

Do Publishers Really Exist? It’s an odd question to ask, but currently in European law, (which is focused on author’s rights) they don’t have any formal status. This has led to some rather odd legal outcomes,  so publishers have persuaded the European Commission to consult on correcting the anomaly.

This subject was debated at a seminar in Amsterdam last Saturday. The event, which was hosted by CIVR and run by Cambridge University, also considered how copyright law interacts with newspaper publishing.

The audience and speakers were predominantly academic lawyers, but the discussion was less technical than might be expected. To the extent that any consensus emerged it was that;

-          The challenges for news publishing are much bigger than copyright law;
-          Tightening copyright law and enforcement would help, marginally;
-          If the publisher anomaly needs to be addressed a less sweeping amendment would be preferred by most.

A hot topic was the initial failures in Spain and Germany of attempts to use a local publishers’ right (also called ancillary or neighbourhood rights) to force Google and others to pay for the content they use.  Some publishers see this as progress, and some users as a threat. One thing is for certain, when debating this issue, the emotion is larger than the revenue.

Matt Rogerson, Head of Public Policy at the Guardian, explained the huge pressure publishers face as digital revenue evaporates in the face of over-supply and ad blocking.  The recent closure of the print edition of the Independent helped some present focus on the reality, as did the  Enders Analysis slide (below) showing the decline in newspapers' advertising income.

As is sometimes the case, the lawyers’ opinions wavered and havered (the comment if you pose four copyright lawyers a question you get five opinions rang true).  The economist demonstrated lawyers don’t have a monopoly on sophistry; check the logic behind “users like Google News so we should legislate to ensure it continues “.  Another long day in the copyright law forest but progress was made.

Article originally appeared on NLA (
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