Today, Public Knowledge joined 9 other public interest groups and advocates in a letter warning Congress against adopting the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), a bill that both risks the open internet and incentivizes media consolidation at the cost of local news. The groups argue that by granting media antitrust immunity – a move that effectively sanctions large media cartels by statute – the bill would likely “entrench existing power relationships among both news organizations and digital platforms” while also “alter[ing] the free and open nature of the internet” – without “ensur[ing] more reporters on the beat.” The bill is a likely focus of today’s Senate Judiciary hearing, “Breaking the News – Journalism, Competition, and the Effects of Market Power on a Free Press.”
The following is an excerpt from the letter:
“[A]llowing a news media cartel by statute may actually hurt local publishers by entrenching existing power relationships between the largest platforms and largest publishers. News giants with the greatest leverage would dominate the negotiations and small outlets with diverse or dissenting voices would be unheard if not hurt. In fact, the bill may actually encourage further consolidation in the news industry since scale is the primary source of leverage in negotiations.
“Our second concern… is that the law as drafted represents, at best, a fundamental mischaracterization (or, at worst, a planned alteration) of U.S. copyright law. News outlets… lack any legal right to prohibit third parties from linking to their content. Linking is properly outside the ambit of copyright law, while brief excerpts or previews of news stories are long-established fair uses and do not require permission from the copyright holder. These basic fair uses are essential to millions of websites and online services. [C]hanging this foundational aspect of the internet could have a wide-ranging impact far beyond dominant players like Google and Facebook.
“Even in the absence of direct language to this effect in the JCPA, a court seeking to give the statute meaningful effect could easily read the text as implicitly granting news publishers such exclusive rights. The ‘reading-in’ of such a right could stymie the ability of users to share news articles online without some sort of payment, which in turn would limit the availability of credible information online. The outcome – limiting access to news and information – would be the opposite of the goal to ensure a healthy free press.
The following can be attributed to Lisa Macpherson, Senior Policy Analyst at Public Knowledge:
“Public Knowledge has been a strong and consistent advocate for public support to ensure that citizens have the credible local news they need to participate in the democratic process. We have also partnered with Congress on legislation to address the power of dominant platforms, like Google and Facebook, in the digital marketplace. Unfortunately, the JCPA will not accomplish these goals, and may instead curtail the free and open nature of news and information on the internet. We urge the Senate to reconsider how best to advance local news and address Big Tech’s power over the public conversation without jeopardizing an open internet.”
You may view the letter for more information. You may also view our recent blog post, “Can the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act Really Preserve Local Journalism? Public Knowledge Says ‘Probably Not,’” to learn how the JCPA fails to support local news.
Members of the media may contact Communications Director Shiva Stella with inquiries, interview requests, or to join the Public Knowledge press list at email@example.com or 405-249-9435.