Publishers in the Digital Age: Adequate legal protection is needed to ensure the diversity of the press and the future of quality Journalism in Europe

On 14 September, the Commission is expected to publish a copyright reform package containing draft legal texts and an overarching Communication including a related right for press publishers. This new right aims to provide legal protection by introducing rights at EU level to protect the unauthorised reproduction and making available of publishers’ press publications, in the context of the digital world.

To remain competitive and independently financed in the EU, publishers need to be able to compete effectively and profitably on all platforms, which requires clear rights that are recognised in the market. The current lack of clarity benefits those third parties that want to freeride on the press publishers’ investment. The introduction of a publisher’s right at such a critical time for the digital transformation of the press is therefore welcomed by the four European press publishers associations - EMMA, ENPA, EPC and NME – which represent the interests of thousands of newspaper and magazine publishers across the EU.

The following is a description of what our associations are asking for when we talk about a “publisher’s right”. In addition, we wanted to respond to some of the myths that have been put forward as part of a vigorous anti-copyright campaign that is being waged against any such proposal.


What we mean by a “publisher’s right”?

Publishers do not currently have their own rights to protect their published editions under EU copyright law - i.e. the sum of the contributions from journalists, photographers, designers and editors, is not protected. The “publisher’s right” that we are seeking would afford publishers the same rights as already enjoyed by music, film and software program producers, whose finished works are copyrighted in their entirety giving them the legal right to decide on how and where their content is made available. Every publisher would have the right to waive this right or to manage it exclusively or collectively – but, importantly, it would be their choice.

A free and independent press can only exist if there is adequate revenue to pay journalists, photographers and freelancers and to finance their training and security. Today, this prospect is increasingly reduced, mainly due to loss of revenues: the majority of advertising revenues go to search and social media; unauthorised and unremunerated large-scale re-use of publishers’ content and a lack of legal clarity to enable enforcement against large-scale infringements.

Why it is so important to introduce a publisher’s right now?

In this digital age, when large volumes of content can be easily scraped, copied and distributed in the blink of an eye (unlike in the analogue age), copyright for press publishers urgently needs updating. A publisher’s right, by providing protection for the ‘press publication”, will allow for more flexibility in licensing and more legal clarity to enforce rights in the digital world. In short, it will allow press publishers to get a return on their investment and to be sustainable, so they can continue their fundamental contribution to public debate and their important role of providing information, entertainment and opinion in our democratic society, as well as holding those in power to account.

What press publishers are asking for?

  • To be added to the lists of rightholders at EU level 
  • For all journalistic content to be covered by the publisher’s right – discrimination between types of coverage is unjustified 
  • For no differentiation between online and offline (piracy exists in both domains; two enforcement processes would be impractical and burdensome for SMEs in particular) 
  • For a fair term of protection in line with other neighbouring rightholders.


What the publisher’s right is about and not about?

  • Despite what anti-copyright campaigners are claiming, THE “LINK” IS NOT UNDER THREAT: publishers want and actively encourage their readers to share links to articles. What we are asking for would not affect the way that our readers access publishers’ content, or share links on social media or via apps and email to friends and family. 
  • The publisher’s right is not going to change the contractual arrangements with our journalists, photographers and other contributors as we are asking for a related, or neighbouring right, so called as it sits alongside the exclusive rights of the authors. 
  • The publisher’s right is not a “links tax”, or a “Google tax”. We are asking for publishers to be recognized as rightholders under EU-copyright law, which would give publishers the legal right to decide on how and where their content is made available. Every publisher would have the right to waive this right, or to manage it exclusively or collectively – but, importantly, it would be their choice. Furthermore as stated already above – the link is not under threat.


To learn more about the publishers' right, please visit 

For further information contact:

Catherine Starkie 
Director, Legal Affairs, EMMA

+32 2 536 06 02


The European Magazine Media Association, is the unique and complete representation of Europe’s magazine media, which is today enjoyed by millions of consumers on various platforms, encompassing both paper and digital formats.

The European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA) is the largest representative body of newspaper publishers across Europe. ENPA advocates for 14 national associations across 14 European countries, and is a principal interlocutor to the EU institutions and a key driver of media policy debates in the European Union.