NewsNow Statement on Article 11 of the proposed EU Copyright Directive

London, 8 February 2019

At NewsNow, we are passionate about the public’s right to access high quality news, from all the angles.

We exist for people to find news, and for publishers to find audiences.

That’s why our editors carefully handpick the publications we link to, and monitor the quality of news they promote on our site.

It’s why we support a well-funded news media, with the resources to employ the best writers and journalists, and publish stories that make a positive difference.

So we’re extremely concerned about the unintended consequences of Article 11 of the European Copyright Directive, which aims to better fund the news media through giving publishers the right to be paid by search engines and aggregators for displaying previews of their articles.

The Directive’s current threshold – “individual words, limited previews, or very short extracts” – is extremely vague, and that uncertainty would be counterproductive. Traditional previews – like headlines, and sometimes short snippets, and thumbnails – provide necessary context to what would otherwise be bare hyperlinks, and empower users to make more informed choices.

Shorter extracts would make it harder for users to choose what to read, and would reduce traffic for publishers. The biggest impact would be on smaller publishers, which have less well-known brands. People would turn more to social media to get their news, with all the consequent issues such as fake news and filter bubbles.

The Directive is also unclear about whether publishers will retain their current freedom to allow their headlines to be used if they value the audiences they reach through search and aggregation more than the promised licence fees.

It’s easy to see Article 11 as a measure to counteract the power of big tech giants. However, this is not the full picture. Many publishers and academics have opposed Article 11 in its current form, and 4.6 million people have even signed a petition asking legislators to rethink the whole Copyright Directive.

Because of the upcoming European elections, there’s a real risk that a Directive will be pushed through that will not satisfy everyone, and will not work for all publishers.

That’s why we’re calling on legislators:

Please don’t rush the Copyright Directive through before the European elections.

Article 11 should clearly permit the reasonable use of traditional previews, such as headlines, snippets and thumbnails.

Publishers should retain the right to grant free licenses for displaying previews of their content.

Please take the time to get it right.

Update!

The government-backed Cairncross Review of the UK news industry has rejected calls for online platforms, like search engines and aggregators, to pay for linking to online news.

We are now calling on the UK government to ensure that the EU, working to finalise Article 11 of the EU Copyright Directive, does not introduce this in the UK by the back door.

12 February 2019

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