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21st Apr 2019

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Juncker defends authors' rights

Europe should not be like the US, where authors can sell off their intellectual rights, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has pledged.

Speaking at an event in Brussels organised by The Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) on Wednesday (6 May), Juncker defended the European Authors’ Right in strong terms.

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  • Juncker revealed himself as a 'news-junkie' addicted to the smell of print (Photo: Surreal Name Given)

'We want to protect European authors' rights and don’t want to be like in the US, where you can sell off your rights. We don't want such a Europe", he said.

More than half of Europeans use the internet, but "there is no way to bypass authors’ rights in this digital revolution", he added.

Speaking on the day that the commission presented its flagship Digital Agenda, Juncker admitted that he is not himself of the digital age.

"I follow some 40 newspapers daily", he said - none of them digital. "I have a sort of erotic relation to news-print, to smell it", he joked.

Getting the balance right between rights holders, consumers, publishers and the digital industry, including big players like Google or Amazon, will be key to the success of the Digital Agenda.

Juncker's speech gave a first hint of how the commission intends to strike the balance, before the bill moves to the European Parliament and the European Council for negotiations.

Creative work is "not a hobby, but a profession", he said, advocating that journalists, creatives and authors should be properly paid for their work.

"We want to provide access to culture and to secure ways to create culture".

To noisy applause from the newspaper publishers assembled in the Bavarian representation in Brussels, Juncker also announced that a planned VAT reform in 2016 will open reduced rates to digital newspapers and books in a move that would bring them into line with print media.

Why should it be more expensive for consumers to read books and news online than in print, he asked? In Britain for example, newspapers pay no VAT, while online services are taxed at 20 percent.

VAT should be “technology-neutral,” Juncker noted.

The Digital Agenda is so far the most complex initiative coming out of the new Juncker commission and has been worked out under the new system of vice-commissioners’ involvement in the process.

As many as 14 commissioners in total contributed to the project, Juncker said, with his vice president for the digital single market, Andrus Ansip, from Estonia leading the process.

"As long as Ansip was in Brussels his wife has not been able to watch Estonian soap-operas due to geo-blocking. That is not normal. Whoever buys a product legally in one country should also be able to use it if they’re in another member state," Juncker said.

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