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Beyond the Cover Story – An Enquiry into the EU Competence to Introduce a Right for Publishers


This paper examines the competence of the EU to introduce a neighbouring right for publishers (including a neighbouring right for press publishers, also called “ancillary copyright”). The assessment of competence is carried out following a step-by-step approach, which involves an analysis of the applicable Treaty norms and an assessment of subsidiarity and proportionality.

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  1. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on copyright in the Digital Single Market, 14 September 2016, COM(2016) 593 final, available at: (accessed 14 September 2016).

  2. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on Promoting a fair, efficient and competitive European copyright-based economy in the Digital Single Market, COM(2016) 592 final, 14 September 2016, pp. 7–8; Commission Staff Working Document Impact Assessment on the modernisation of EU copyright rules, SWD(2016)301 final Part 1/3, 14 September 2016, pp. 155–160; Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on copyright in the Digital Single Market (Explanatory Memorandum), p. 3.

  3. This is a consequence of the principle of conferral, enshrined in Art. 5.2 TEU: “Under the principle of conferral, the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States in the Treaties to attain the objectives set out therein. Competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States.”

  4. See case C-376/98, Tobacco Advertising I, para. 78; and joined cases C-465/00, C-138/01 and 139/01, Österreichischer Rundfunk, para. 41.

  5. Schütze (2014), p. 228.

  6. Ramalho (2014), pp. 178, 183.

  7. See Council Regulation (EC) No. 207/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the Community trade mark (codified version), amended by Regulation (EU) 2015/2424 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2015.

  8. See Council Regulation (EC) No. 6/2002 of 12 December 2001 on Community designs.

  9. A. Ramalho, op. cit., at pp. 184–185.

  10. Joined cases C-274/11 and C-295/11, Spain v. Council, para. 21.

  11. Case C-436/03, Parliament v. Council, para. 44.

  12. Tobacco Advertising I, paras. 83–84.

  13. See joined cases C-465/00, C-138 and 139/01, Österreichischer Rundfunk, para. 41; case C-380/03, Tobacco Advertising II, para. 80; case C-217/04, United Kingdom v. Parliament, para. 42.

  14. Tobacco Advertising I, para. 84: “(…) If a mere finding of disparities between national rules and of the abstract risk of obstacles to the exercise of fundamental freedoms or of distortions of competition liable to result therefrom were sufficient to justify the choice of Article 100a [current Article 114 TFEU] as a legal basis, judicial review of compliance with the proper legal basis might be rendered nugatory. The Court would then be prevented from discharging the function entrusted to it by Article 164 of the EC Treaty (now Article 220 EC) [replaced, in substance, by Article 19 TEU] of ensuring that the law is observed in the interpretation and application of the Treaty.”

  15. Case C-210/03, Swedish Match, para. 29, and case law cited therein.

  16. See Tobacco Advertising I, para. 84, and joined cases C-154/04 and C-155/04, Alliance for Natural Health, para. 28.

  17. Even though that argument was put forth by Germany (see Tobacco Advertising I, para. 29).

  18. Swedish Match, paras. 37–38.

  19. Case C-436/03, Parliament v. Council, para. 39.

  20. Case C-350/92, Spain v. Council, para. 35; case C-376/98, Germany v. Parliament and Council, para. 86; case C-377/98, Netherlands v. Parliament and Council, para. 15; case C-491/01, British American Tobacco, para. 61; case C-210/03, Swedish Match, para. 30.

  21. Swedish Match, para. 33.

  22. Case 155/91, Commission v. Council, para. 19. See also Lohse (2011), pp. 288–289.

  23. Tobacco Advertising I, para. 107: “(…) National laws often differ regarding the conditions under which the activities they regulate may be carried on, and this impacts directly or indirectly on the conditions of competition for the undertakings concerned. It follows that to interpret Articles 100a, 57(2) and 66 of the Treaty [now articles 114, 53 and 62 TFEU] as meaning that the Community legislature may rely on those articles with a view to eliminating the smallest distortions of competition would be incompatible with the principle, already referred to in paragraph 83 of this judgment, that the powers of the Community are those specifically conferred on it.”

  24. Tobacco Advertising I, para. 109.

  25. Case C-301/06, Data Retention, paras. 36 and 68.

  26. Tobacco Advertising I, para. 110.

  27. Case C-168/00, Simone Leitner, para. 21: “It is not in dispute that, in the field of package holidays, the existence in some Member States but not in others of an obligation to provide compensation for non-material damage would cause significant distortions of competition, given that, as the Commission has pointed out, non-material damage is a frequent occurrence in that field.” (Emphasis added.)

  28. Tobacco Advertising I, para. 108.

  29. In other countries of the EU (such as France, Belgium, and Italy) the relevant stakeholders – representatives of news publishers and Google – have concluded agreements that can presumably accommodate both parties’ interests. On these agreements, see Rosati (2016).

  30. Podszun (2013), p. 260.

  31. Computer & Communications Industry Association (2015).

  32. European Copyright Society (2016).

  33. European Copyright Society, op. cit.; Computer & Communications Industry Association, op. cit.; Kucharczyk (2015).

  34. European Copyright Society, op. cit.; Computer & Communications Industry Association, op. cit.

  35. Spindler and Schuster (2015), pp. 2351–2360.

  36. Xalabarder (2014).

  37. As reported in:

  38. Posada de la Concha et al. (2015).

  39. Ibid., at pp. 53–55.

  40. D. Forcada, “Cebrian dinamita el ‘lobby’ de la prensa al renunciar en solitario a la ‘tasa Google’”, in: “El Confidencial”, available at: (accessed 26 August 2016).

  41. This is also recognised by the Commission in the Impact Assessment (supra note 2), although in the context of justifying how the current legal framework is a source of legal uncertainty. See Impact Assessment, p. 160: “None of these two ‘ancillary rights’ solutions at national level have proven effective to address publishers’ problems so far, in particular as they have not resulted in increased revenues for publishers”.

  42. Proposal for a Directive (supra note 2), at p. 5: “Online distribution of copyright-protected content is by essence cross-border.”

  43. See, with regard to the book market, Kurschus (2015), p. 28; and in relation to the news publishing market, data in Newman et al. (2016).

  44. Psychogiopoulou (2013), pp. 89–90, 95.

  45. Media Group Turku School of Economics & Rightscom Ltd (2005).

  46. N. Newman et al, op. cit.

  47. S. Athey and M. Mobius, “The impact of news aggregators on Internet news consumption: the case of localization”, Working Paper (February 2012), p. 4 et seq., available at:

  48. Impact Assessment (supra note 2), at p. 161.

  49. Proposal available at: (accessed 26 August 2016).

  50. Rauer (2015).

  51. See e.g. the inquiry by MP Niko Alm at:

  52. Rosati (2016).

  53. In France, the minister said that if they did not reach consensus then they would consider legislative intervention, reinforcing this “either/or” scenario – see E. Rosati, op. cit.

  54. Although possibly Art. 118 TFEU would be more adequate, as argued above in section 2.

  55. Hugenholtz (2009a), p. 307 et seq.

  56. See Impact Assessment (supra note 2), at p. 160.

  57. It is the case, for example, of the sui generis right for database makers. The Commission acknowledged that the economic effect of the sui generis right is unproven, and that its provisions have caused “considerable legal uncertainty” (see First evaluation of Directive 96/9/EC on the legal protection of databases, from 12 December 2005, available at: (accessed 12 September 2016). See also Hugenholtz (2009b), p. 299, making the point that introducing new rights has a “negative effect on legal certainty in the Member States”.

  58. A. Ramalho, op. cit.

  59. Wyatt (2009), p. 120.

  60. D. Wyatt, op. cit., makes this point in relation to internal market objectives and public health objectives.

  61. Barber (2005), pp. 311–312.

  62. Ibid.

  63. A. Ramalho, op. cit. See also Art. 2 of Protocol No. 2 to the Treaties on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.

  64. Groussot and Bogojević (2014), pp. 242–243.

  65. Communication from the Commission on Impact Assessment, COM(2002)276 final, 5 June 2002, p. 14.

  66. See inter alia case C-331/88, Fedesa, para. 13, and case C-210/00, Käserei Champignon Hofmeister, paras. 59–67. For a detailed explanation of the factors, see Groussot (2006), pp. 146–152; Jans (2000), p. 240 et seq., and references therein.

  67. Alexy (2010), p. 398.

  68. de Búrca (1993) p. 113 et seq.; J.H. Jans, op. cit., at p. 240 et seq.; Groussot, op. cit., at p. 146 et seq.

  69. Case C-58/08, Vodafone, para. 53.

  70. Ibid.

  71. Communication from the Commission on Impact Assessment, at 14.

  72. Ibid.

  73. Proposal for a Directive (supra note 2), at p. 5.

  74. See Communication (supra note 2), at p. 7.

  75. See Impact Assessment (supra note 2), at p. 167.

  76. See the proportionality assessment in the Commission’s Proposal (supra note 2), at p. 5.

  77. Möllers (2010), p. 189.

  78. Ramalho (2016), p. 83 et seq.

  79. Millet (2014), pp. 262–264.

  80. Guastaferro (2012), p. 263.

  81. Geiger (2009), p. 38.

  82. This follows from the principle of indivisibility of fundamental rights, according to which all fundamental rights are of equal ranking, interdependent and interrelated – cf. the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (1993), point 5.

  83. de Vries (2006), p. 18 et seq.

  84. For a more thorough explanation of these integration clauses, see A. Ramalho, “Conceptualising the European Union’s competence in copyright – what can the EU do?”, op. cit., at p. 192 et seq.

  85. See, for an analysis of this effect in relation to Spain, P. Posada de la Concha, A. Gutiérrez Garcia and H. Hernández Cobos, op. cit., at p. 42 et seq.

  86. The Commission considered launching a structured dialogue between press publishers and online service providers, and fostering discussions to identify common solutions, but this option was discarded (see Impact Assessment, supra note 2, at p. 161 et seq.).


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Correspondence to Ana Ramalho.

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This paper presents independent research funded by Digital Europe. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author.

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Ramalho, A. Beyond the Cover Story – An Enquiry into the EU Competence to Introduce a Right for Publishers. IIC 48, 71–91 (2017).

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  • Copyright
  • European Union
  • Lawmaking
  • Publishers
  • Ancillary copyright
  • Neighbouring rights