"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 work.

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...

These 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 professionals.

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 work.

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 authorship.

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