18 June 2010

German Publishers Want More Monopoly Rights

Here's an almost unbelievable piece about what's happening in Germany right now:

It looks as if publishers might really be lobbying for obtaining a new exclusive right conferring the power to monopolise speech e.g. by assigning a right to re-use a particular wording in the headline of a news article anywhere else without the permission of the rights holder. According to the drafts circulating in the internet, permission shall be obtainable exclusively by closing an agreement with a new collecting society which will be founded after the drafts have matured into law. Depending on the particulars, new levies might come up for each and every user of a PC, at least if the computer is used in a company for commercial purposes.

Well, obtaining monopoly protection for sentences and even parts of sentences in a natural language appears to be some kind of very strong meat. This would mean that publishers can control the wording of news messages. This comes crucially close to private control on the dissemination of facts.

But guess what? Someone thinks that German publishers aren't asking for *enough*, as the same article explains:

Mr Castendyk concludes that even if the envisaged auxiliary copyright protection for newspaper language enters into law, the resulting additional revenue streams probably would be insufficient to rescue the publishing companies. He then goes a step further and postulates that publishing companies enjoy a quasi-constitutional guarantee due to their role in the society insofar the state has the obligation to maintain the conditions for their existence forever.


Utilising the leveraging effect of this postulated quasi-constitutional guarantee, Castendyk demands to amend cartel law in order to enable a global 'pooling' of all exclusive rights of all newspaper publishers in Germany in order to block any attempt to defect from the paywall cartell by single competitor as discussed above.

This is a beautiful demonstration of a flaw at the heart of copyright: whenever an existing business model based around a monopoly starts to fail, the reflexive approach is to demand yet more monopolies in an attempt to shore it up. And the faster people point out why that won't solve the problem, the faster the demands come for even more oppressive and unreasonable legislation to try to head off those issues.

And make no mistake: if Germany adopts this approach, there will be squeals from publishers around the world demanding "parity", just as there have been with the term of copyright. And so the ratchet will be turned once more.

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Crosbie Fitch said...

'new exclusive right' is an exemplary contradiction in terms.

There are no 'new' rights. Rights are natural, imbued in man by nature, not granted by the state.

Privileges though, sure, a state can create and grant those like candy. Trouble is, each new privilege created and granted, derogates from everyone else's rights, e.g. liberty.

If you want the privilege of stopping people discussing your news articles, that obviously involves the state suspending the liberty of its citizens to do so, i.e. derogating from their natural right to liberty.

Of course, it sounds a lot better to pretend rights are things that are appropriately granted to corporations - not things the citizens are born with.

Privilege becomes 'right' via 'legally granted right'=>'legal right'=>'right'. And because of this corruption, the original meaning of right must now be qualified as natural right. But those wanting privileges enjoy the popular misconception that 'rights' are indeed granted by a wise and caring government (not things people are born with, that governments are supposed to protect, not erode in the granting of privileges).

Glyn Moody said...

@Crosbie: thanks for that clarification.

PV said...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Given your concluding paragraph, I will most likely cry.

a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

Glyn Moody said...

@PV: yes, pretty extraordinary...

PV said...

@Crosbie Fitch
Unfortunately, publishers would like to have people believe that their monopoly over publishing is a natural right and that we are simply allowed the privilege to read.
I almost felt like barfing after typing that, but it is the shameful, sad truth.

Jason Stephenson said...

@Crosbie Fitch

There is NO such thing as "natural rights." All rights do come from the society in which you live.

Nature does not recognize any rights. Just take a good look at life and death in the wild and you'll see that the natural world cares not a whit for any being's "natural" rights.

This why the rights that seem "natural" for people and institutions have changed over time and continue to change.

Crosbie Fitch said...


Sure, there is that statist perspective that has people as the property of the state, the only 'rights' they have being granted to them, and which the citizen should be damn well grateful for - dispensed or withdrawn as the state sees fit.

With the rise of the corporation and their jealous preservation of 18th century privileges (copyright, patent, et al) that subjugate our cultural and technological commonwealth, we've come a long way from Thomas Paine's perspective on the Rights of Man.

It probably depends whether you're a champion of the corporation and their state regulated consumers, or a champion of the people and the government they empower to protect them.

It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few . . . They . . . consequently are instruments of injustice.

The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a compact with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

Jason Stephenson said...

@Crosbie Fitch

I think you misunderstand me. I am not a statist. I really don't care about states or corporations.

Take a hard look at nature. Come face to face with a hungry lion and have to fight for your life. Now tell me your right to life is "natural."

If your rights came from nature, then nature would respect them, and nature most obviously doesn't.

Your rights come from man, whether yourself or your society. Nature recognizes no right.

As for copyright, I know good and well that it is a growth of the "privilege du Roi" system when copyright meant you had the permission of the King or his censor to publish your work. Of course, there were always presses in Amsterdam where you could have your work published, and other printers would always print unauthorized editions.

You seem to think I'm arguing in favor what these dumkopfs want to do. Far from it. I just take issue with the nonsense about "natural" rights: "imbued in man by [N]ature." (You misspelled it. When personifying the natural world, you should spell with an initial capital.) There's no such thing. I mean, what about the dinosaur's "natural" rights? Nature didn't care much, did it?

Anyway, that's all I have to say about it. Either its a lot of puffery. The publishers want "rights" that don't exist, and you suppose rights come from some source that couldn't possibly grant them.

Rigths as a concept are plain and simple an invention of men.

Crosbie Fitch said...

Dyrcona, a natural right is a natural power and ability. It is not supernatural. You have a natural right to life because you have the natural power, ability, necessity and interest to preserve it.

Natural rights come from the nature of man. There is no need to elevate 'nature' into some kind of Gaiean deity.