Publishers unite to fight Internet copyright abuse

By Alyson Fixter

British publishers will unite this year in an attempt to tackle the growing threat of internet copyright abuse, reportedly alarmed by the ongoing failure of the music industry to prevent illegal MP3 sharing.

Press Gazette has learned that an unprecedented publishing coalition, including the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA), the Newspaper Society and the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), is to be formed as a lobbying group as the Government looks at the future of copyright law in the digital age.

Publishers have already raised fears Europe-wide about the rise of RSS feeds and news services which lift copy from news websites without payment, often circumventing the need for the reader to visit the sites.

The Government’s Gowers Review on intellectual property rights, headed by former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers (pictured), will focus specifically on whether current copyright law can tackle the expanding territory of the internet, and is inviting submissions by 21 April.

The PPA is set to make an 11-point case to the review, and a spokesman said it was hoped the coalition would ensure there was a "united voice" from publishers on copyright issues over the coming year.

He added: "Publishers will unite to ensure Gowers addresses the online digital world and tackles issues, including peer-to-peer file-sharing and digital libraries so that journalists’ work is protected. The growth of online subscription services and digital technologies are making these issues of increasing relevance to members, and there is concern that the interests of publishers are not being taken seriously enough at the moment. As its template, the group intends to use the music industry as an example of what can happen when creative industries suffer from online piracy and unauthorised use."

In February, the PPA joined with newspaper and book publishers to demand meetings with the EU’s internal market commissioner and commissioner responsible for media on the issue of Google and other "news aggregators", arguing that companies whose content was used by these companies should be entitled to compensation.

A spokesman added: "The growth of online news aggregators has coincided with an acceleration in the long-term trend of declining readership for print newspapers and a shift in advertising spending from print to the internet, much not captured by their own sites."

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