Miscellaneous  |  03/12/2019

EU and Switzerland: Neighbouring Right for Press Publisher under Criticism

Despite the controversy surrounding the European Parliament’s proposal to introduce a press publishers' neighbouring right, Switzerland has now tabled the same proposition. A group of Swiss legal scholars including Reto M. Hilty show why such a right does more harm than good.

Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty
Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty

The planned introduction of a neighbouring right for press publishers is based on a proposal from the Swiss Media Association. In the preparatory Commission for Science, Education and Culture of the Swiss Council of States  the proposal was approved. Similar to Article 11 of the proposed Copyright Directive of the EU, the Swiss proposal envisions having news service providers pay a remuneration to Swiss press publishers when they lead readers to them via short linked texts, or “snippets”.

The fact that the proposal for a neighbouring right for press publishers (Article 37a of the Swiss Copyright Act) was put forward so late in the legislative procedure drew both from legal scientists and from the creators. The country had so far always shown a wait-and-see attitude when it came to adopting EU regulations.

Prof. Dr. Reto M. Hilty, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich and full professor at the University of Zurich, states: “That our copyright needs modernizing is undisputed. It has to be adapted to new lifestyles and user behavior in keeping with the times (e.g. in social networks), but also to new business models.” In a statement addressed to the Council of States, Hilty and his co-authors Prof. Florent Thouvenin (also University of Zurich) and Prof. Cyrill P. Rigamonti from the University of Berne, demonstrate the effects of the planned reform. “Modernizing copyright does not mean changing its intended purpose. Even in the digital age it is primarily supposed to provide an appropriate protection for those creating the content. The protection of the creators, however, cannot be equated with an exaggerated protection for those companies commercializing copyrighted content.”

In a first debate at the Council of States on Tuesday, the small chamber returned the proposal back to the preparatory Commission.

The Max Planck Institute in a position statement dealt intensively with the legal repercussions of the EU copyright reform at the very beginning of the European legislative procedure. Prof. Reto M. Hilty also criticized the current compromise proposal in an interview before the final vote in the EU Parliament scheduled for the end of March. The copyright expert explained that the legislation has lost sight of the goal of modernizing copyright law.

Link to Position Statement concerning the Swiss Copyright Reform

Link to Position Statement "Modernisation of European Copyright Rules"

Link to Interview