EU © Society – the role of publishers in the © value chain

ECS submitted its opinion related to the role of publishers in the copyright value chain to the Copyright Unit of the European Commission.

Its conclusion is the following:

There can be legitimate debate about the changing nature of investments and business models by publishers. But this is not in itself a valid rationale for granting intellectual property rights. There has been a tendency to see all value generated as a case for protection. It is a slippery slope from press publishers and scientific publishers to music publishers, to museums, festival organisers and so on. And why not search engines and online platforms and aggregators? They all invest and create value. There is a potentially endless list of value generating activity in the copyright sphere.

The potential costs of new intellectual property rights typically are of two kinds: higher prices and loss of innovation. In the UK, the Hargreaves and Gower Reviews therefore recommended making the policy process more transparent and rigorous. Recommendation 1 of the Hargreaves Report reads (2011, p. 8): “Government should ensure that development of the IP system is driven as far as possible by objective evidence. Policy should balance measurable economic objectives against social goals and potential benefits for rights holders against impacts on consumers and other interests. These concerns will be of particular importance in assessing future claims to extend rights or in determining desirable limits to rights.”

IP rights, once created, have proved almost impossible to abolish. In a period of rapid technological and industrial change, the standards of evidence required must be particularly high. A fundamental point relates to the onus of proof.20 Any new intellectual property right is likely to bring costs. That is the point of rights, otherwise they could not perform an economic function. Someone needs to pay. It is therefore for the proponents of new rights
to show what these costs are, who will carry them, that the costs are necessary and proportionate, and provide verifiable evidence.

Hugenholtz, P., Benabou, V., Derclaye E., Dinwoodie, G., Dusollier, S., Geiger, C., Griffiths, J., Kretschmer, M., Metzger, A., Peukert, A., Ricolfi, M., Rognstad, O., Vivant, M., Xalabarder, R., Bently, L.: Answer to the EC Consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain. 2016.