German support of press publishers’ right described as “incomprehensible”

16 May 2018

Green Party MEP, Tabea Rößner has described Germany’s decision to support an EU-wide press publishers’ right as “incomprehensible” and “irresponsible”. Her comments come in response to the publication of VG Media’s 2017 accounts (available here), which show that the German ancillary right was responsible for only 30,000 euros of the collection society’s earnings. As this accounts for only 0.07% of the 43 million euro turnover, and appears to be lost in the millions spent on legal fees, Rößner questions whether the introduction of a new EU right would result in a meaningful change to press sustainability (as is claimed by supporters of the new right).

The German ancillary right (Leistungsschutzrecht), introduced in 2013, is currently awaiting assessment by the ECJ on its admissibility (due to the lack of proper notification to the European Commission); no date has yet been specified for a ruling. In the interim, Google has been given preferential treatment by VG Media, which has been sustained by an Administrative Court in Munich in anticipation of the ECJ ruling. Previously in the case, claims of unfair treatment by Google were rejected by a Berlin court, stating that Google’s business model was a “win-win” for both platform and publisher. Google noted at the time how the court’s ruling “highlights that there are still many contradictions and unanswered questions in the law of ancillary copyright for publishers”.