News Media Alliance Seeks Protection, Compensation From Online Platforms

The News Media Alliance is calling on the U.S. Copyright office to strengthen publisher’s rights online, especially in the face of widespread re-use of content by online news aggregators, especially social platforms such as Facebook.

The alliance, comprised of more than 2,000 media organizations in the U.S. and Canada, said journalism is not adequately compensated by the aggregators. In addition, claims by some stakeholders that news-content usage by online aggregators is simply fair use and not infringing on copyright, are “inaccurate, and have the effect of obscuring the truth in an effort to circumvent long-established U.S. copyright jurisprudence.”

The alliance’s comments come as part of ongoing work by the Copyright Office on a “Publishers’ Protection Study,” intended to examine effectiveness of current protections for publishers and whether additional protections are necessary. The study was requested by Congress last year.



“The news media industry is in crisis — publisher revenues have plummeted in the last 15 years, causing tens of thousands of newsroom employees to lose their jobs and thousands of communities to lose their newspapers,” Alliance EVP and General Counsel Danielle Coffey said in remarks submitted to the Copyright Office on Jan. 5. “This is a fundamental challenge — largely fueled by the online platforms’ devaluing of journalism.

Coffey noted that Maria Ressa, a 2021 Nobel Prize co-winner and professional journalist from the Philippines, said in her acceptance speech that online platforms “are biased against facts, biased against journalists,” and that “the era of competition for news” is dead. She blamed social media companies spreading lies and misinformation initially circulated by others.

“Far too many are seemingly unwilling to support systemic changes and disregard the role online platforms and news aggregators play in exacerbating the situation, Coffey said in a press release on Jan. 7. “News publishers make massive investments in reporters and newsrooms, and must have the ability to exercise their rights and receive a return on that investment, including through the ability of publishers to receive fair compensation for the use of their content online.”

The alliance offered four recommendations.

  • Amend the Copyright Office’s policies regarding the copyrightability of “words and short phrases.”
  • Clarify the law around substantial takings and systematic use of news content.
  • Study the need for unique status and protections for news publishers.
  • Study the need for further guidance or congressional action in the use of news content for artificial-intelligence applications.

The alliance is also seeking a series of changes:

  • The Copyright Office conclude that the reproduction and public display of news content by aggregators is infringing.
  • The Copyright Office implement changes to registration practices that would help protect publishers.
  • That it ensure American publishers benefit from and receive compensation for the consumption of their content in the EU.
  • That it endorse the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2021, a bill intended to help address the market abuse of dominant online platforms.

Read the organization's full comments here.

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