"Bringing Europe's cultural heritage online", EFJ statement

Public Hearing on:

"Bringing Europe's cultural heritage online"

European Federation of Journalists Statement,

28th October 2010

The EFJ represents 50 journalists unions and

associations in 34 countries across Europe.

Today we are

witnessing a complete change in the way news is produced and how journalists


The digital environment

has offered our colleagues new platforms to publish on and new sources of

information (Twitter, Facebook, blogs). This shift has also reinforced concerns

faced by the profession about


a  drop in ethical standards,


a lack of respect and loss of protection for journalists' and

photographers' authorship,


development of unfriendly online licenses for authors (if any) and


lack of remuneration for reproducing works online...


concerns also apply to the EU digitisation debate. Although we truly welcome

current efforts to sustain online access to Europe's cultural heritage and to

news content in particular - both from a creator's and a user's perspective- ongoing

difficulties journalists face in the protection of their rights should not be

underestimated. Making archive copies available

online in an ill-considered manner could effectively destroy journalists' - and

other authors' - income from syndication and re-use, which for many is a significant

part of the cash-flow that enables them to operate as independent


The key challenge

here is to maintain journalists' moral and economic rights over the content

that they create. This must be particularly borne  in mind when digitising newspapers. As

James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News Corporation, Europe and

Asia, points out, "the copyright holder needs to be part and parcel of

determining how further exploitation digitally is conducted".

This rule should apply no matter

the nature of the news content in question, be it in-copyright, orphan or out

of print. This becomes even more important with online paid-for models where it

becomes difficult for journalists to trace how their work is going to be used

and for what gain.

In practice, journalists transfer

their rights to their employers for the first publication only. Additional

reproductions of a news story or a photograph are usually covered by collective

agreements negotiated between unions and media employers. In copyright

countries (UK, Netherlands, Ireland) freelance journalists retain their rights

after the first publication and must give permission for reproducing their


These schemes must be taken into

account when digitising news content and the main question public libraries

shall ask themselves is: who owns the right?

Additionally, specific attention must be paid to the composition of a

newspaper which includes several works that

are authors' rights protected. The stories and the embedded photographs have

all been created by individuals that retain their authors' rights and have

licensed their employer to use these contents for a specific use. Digitisation of news contents cannot be done without

recognition and permission of all authors involved. Collecting societies have a

key role to play here in giving this permission and in easing the process.

As information is soon

out-of-date, out of print works are frequent in the printed press. However, the

fact that a newspaper is out of print does not mean that no author can be found

or that his/her rights have been transferred for possible future use. Therefore

digitisation of out of print works should also be based on due authorization

from authors, including authors of embedded photographs. 

Lastly, we believe that there is a

need to seriously consider technical ways to reduce the number of orphan works

in circulation in the future and enforce existing legislation regulating moral

rights. Too many authors of newspaper articles and press photographs become

impossible to identify because of the absence of signature or bi-line. Signatures,

not only guaranty the reputation of an author and ethical journalism standards,

but they also ease the authorization process which is necessary before digitising

works and making them accessible online. The French debate over the need to

reduce the number of "all rights reserved" photographs and reinforce

identification of photographers is symptomatic of this effort to strengthen


The issue is becoming urgent at a time where the news is

increasingly digital and we strongly encourage the Comité des sages to give

additional and serious consideration to ways to enforce authorship.

Brussels, 28th October, Pamela

Morinière EFJ