European newspaper and magazine publishers have presented the European Commission with a call for more copyright protection as a way to lay the groundwork for new ways to generate revenue online, the International Herald Tribune reported. A press release said that "a landmark declaration" had been signed at a meeting on 26 June in Berlin, convened by the European Publishers' Council and the World Association of Newspapers.
The joint declaration grew out of an initiative in Germany: the 'Hamburg Declaration' was introduced on 8 June and has so far been adopted by 149 German publishers. The declaration advocates "urgent improvements in the protection of intellectual property on the Internet" and stresses that "universal access to websites does not necessarily mean access at no cost." It continues, "going forward we no longer wish to be forced to give away property without having granted permission."
The declaration presented does not offer specific proposals to solve this problem, but the press release discussed ACAP, or Automated Content Access Protocol, a tool created by EPC and WAN-IFRA to enable content providers to communicate their copyright terms and conditions online in a machine-readable way. Chairman of ACAP Gavin O'Reilly said that "We need search engines to recognize ACAP as a step towards acknowledging that content providers have the right to decide what happens to their content and on what terms. The European Commission and other legislators call on our industry constantly to come up with solutions - here we have one and we call upon the regulators to back it up".
"The Internet is not our enemy but rather the future of journalism, if intellectual property is respected in the digital world as well," said Mathias Döpfner, CEO of the Axel Springer AG. He explained that what the publishers want is to be able to get a share of revenue generated when their content is reused, and to be able to develop a market for paid content.
The petition has been signed by executives of News Corp., Axel Springer, Gruner + Jahr, Lagardère, Independent News & Media, the Daily Mail & General Trust, Burda Media, the Espresso Group, Telegraaf Media Group and RCS, among others. The IHT pointed out that neither it nor its parent paper, The New York Times, is among the signatories. The next step would be to obtain the cooperation of search engines, whether by choice or by legal force. "We are confident that the representatives of search engines and other aggregators will join us in realizing and opening up the opportunities of the market for legitimate paid content in the Internet," said Döpfner.
Another similar initiative exists in the US: the Fair Syndication Consortium was created in April by a group of publishers and a Silicon Valley start-up, Attributor, which aims to track news outlets' content and obtain a share of ad revenue on sites on which it is reused. It does not seem to be an effort to try to stop content being misappropriated, but simply to ensure that any money made is shared with the original content provider. The Associated Press has also declared a copyright crackdown.
As well as spreading newspaper content far and wide, the Internet has created a whole series of challenges with regards to how content should be monetised. There is growing enthusiasm for charging for online content, with many publishers considering their options and Journalism Online promising to facilitate making websites part paid. Start-up Circulate is proposing a different solution, trying to help publishers up their traffic and therefore increase advertising revenue.