German publishers have united behind demands that the government pass legislation
shielding their intellectual property from "ongoing theft" over the Internet. The principle publishing houses aligned themselves with trade unions of the music, film and advertising industries at the "International Media Dialogue" in Hamburg earlier this month to discuss to question "No Future for Paid Content? Media Industry Under Pressure".
A statement warned about the greatly damaging financial repercussions of intellectual property theft by providers and demanded legal protection for online content. The signatories of the statement were: the German Producers Alliance, the German Association of Communications Agencies, and the big publishing houses Springer, Bauer, Ganske, Gruner & Jahr, Spiegel and Zeit.
The discussion was predominately concerned with the future of the printed press. The free, indiscriminate taking of online information "permanently threatens the creation of quality works and independent journalism" the statement said. The standards of journalism is a current global concern for the industry, as the fluid diffusion of the information reduces the sanctity of the role of the provider, while raising questions about the credibility of sources.
The financial consequences of the situation were reiterated. According to Mathias Doepfner, chairman of Axel-Springer AG, one of the largest newspaper publishing companies in Europe, 500 media representatives in Germany and beyond, depend on intellectual property rights to stay solvent. He maintained that the lifelines of a diverse print media were the right to defend investments and refinance. Interestingly, Doepfner made an explicit rejection of any idea of state subsidisation of the media, announcing: "We don't want any (state) subsidies, so we need support to protect our intellectual property".
The issue of intellectual piracy, given the global nature of the Internet, is arguably an international issue. Dagmar Woehrl, under secretary at the economics ministry told the German website taggesschau.de that any future advancements in the protection of copyrights should happen on an international as well as a national level. The debate on whether copyrights should be bolstered or if online material in the form of audios, videos and texts should be made available for "redesign on the internet" is ongoing, according to the German news site, DW-World.
At this point, however, it is national governments, which are being called upon by concerned industries to formulate specific policies protecting their intellectual property. Recently, the French government passed piracy legislation giving authorities the right to shut down Internet connections of users having multiple copyright convictions. In Spain, a ruling after a lengthy legal battle confirmed in May that newspapers are the rightful and exclusive intellectual property owners of their own work giving them greater control over what is allowed to be published. In the previous month, leading Russian publishers have united to propose a draft law, which would allow for the imposition of fines for the illegal publishing of copyrighted material.