This section aims to familiarise readers with Article 15 of the DSM Directive, which establishes a new right for press publishers. The section was authored by Timothy Vollmer, Teresa Nobre and Dimitar Dimitrov. It represents the views of Communia on the implementation of that provision.

For a summary of this guide please see the TL;DR version of this guide:

TL;DR Article 15: Protection of press publications concerning online uses

What is at issue in Article 15?

🌰 In a nutshell

Article 15 attempts to improve the downward-sliding financial outlook of press publishers in the online environment by introducing a new right for them, which allows them to control the online use of their press publications by information society service providers (“ISSPs”).

Article 15 is problematic because: 1) protects press publications, even if they do not fulfil the originality threshold required to attract copyright protection; 2) prevents the use of parts of press publications other than “very short extracts”; and 3) creates a new layer of exclusive rights on top of copyright, where the new related right will protect the non-original collection of journalistic works (the “press publication”), and copyright will continue to protect both the original collections and the journalistic works themselves (e.g. journalistic articles, photographs, videos, etc).

As is clear from past experiments with the right in Germany and Spain, an additional right for EU press publishers will not support quality journalism, increase the diversity of media content, or grow the digital single market. Instead, it will negatively affect access to information within the EU (EU internet users will stop seeing EU press publications in platforms of ISSPs) and the ability for publishers to share using the platforms, technologies, and terms beneficial to them.

Some context

The rise of digital and online news has caused for new tools and services to be created, including news aggregators and media monitoring services. These services rely on the inclusion and reuse of press publications, and according to the DSM Directive constitute “an important part of their business models and a source of revenue” (Recital 54). At the same time, the Directive goes, press publication publishers are having a hard time licensing their content for reuse on these news aggregators and media services, which prevents them from earning revenue (see Recital 54).

Therefore, the EU legislator determined it was necessary to step in and introduce a new right for EU press publishers. The Directive says: “the organisational and financial contribution of publishers in producing press publications needs to be recognised and further encouraged to ensure the sustainability of the publishing industry and thereby foster the availability of reliable information” (Recital 55).

The press publisher’s right is one of the most controversial provisions in the DSM Directive. Its introduction and passage received significant criticism from the public interest and academic communities, who have questioned whether the new right will negatively impact journalism and freedom of expression. And prior experiments with similar types of press publishers’ rights have already failed to improve the financial situation of those publishers in Germany and Spain.