The Copyright Office, at the request of Congress, has initiated a study to examine the rights and protections of news publishers under copyright and related laws. The Office issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking public comment on a variety of issues that could extend new protections to “press publishers” and perhaps other content creators that go beyond those accorded by traditional principles of copyright law. The Office terms these protections “ancillary copyright protections.” The Notice of Inquiry tees up several specific proposals for consideration, asks many specific questions, and solicits additional ideas that should be considered to protect publishers. Comments are due November 26, 2021. The Copyright Office will also hold a virtual public roundtable on December 9 to consider these issues. This study could have an impact both on traditional media outlets who produce content, and on digital media that shares those comments.
The impact of digital media on traditional publishers of content – especially news content – was the trigger for this review. The Notice begins with a recitation of the financial impact that the growth of the internet has had on newspapers and other publishers (“publication” under the Copyright Act is the distribution of a copy or recording of a work to the public by sale, rental, lease, or lending. While a pure public performance does not constitute publication, digital subscription services and similar on-demand uses of content would likely fit within this definition). In its opening paragraphs, the Notice focuses on digital “news aggregators” and their impact on publishers. The Notice takes a broad view of the term aggregator – talking not just of headline clipping sites devoted to specific topics, but also to broader digital media sites like Facebook and Google that feature content from a variety of other sources. While recognizing that aggregators can drive traffic to publisher’s digital content, the Copyright Office seeks comment on whether these aggregators also harm publishers by sending traffic only to specific articles and not to an index or home page for a publisher where a viewer might be inclined to view more content (and perhaps more of the publisher’s own ads). From that opening discussion of news aggregators, the Notice looks at possible “ancillary” rights that may assist publishers in overcoming any negative impact of aggregators. These are discussed below.
Continue Reading Copyright Office Initiates Study of “Ancillary Copyright Protections” Accorded to Publishers – Reviewing News Aggregation and Digital Media’s Use of News Content from Traditional Sources