The work of the professional media as affected by plagiarism

workshop 16 17 12 2020

Protecting the copyright in the media sphere is one of the key challenges faced by journalists, photojournalists and media workers in the country, especially after the advent of modern digital newsrooms. The legal possibilities for dealing with plagiarism and the role of the relevant institutions was the main topic of the two-day workshop organized by the Macedonian Institute for Media and the Association of Journalists of Macedonia, in order to encourage a debate among the stakeholders and exchange positive experiences on issues related to copyright protection.

During the first day of the workshop, 40 journalists, photo-reporters, media workers, lawyers and representatives of the Ministry of Culture discussed the Law on Copyright and Other Related Rights and its implementation in order to protect the rights of media workers.

In her address, the Minister of Culture Irena Stefoska, said that the Ministry is working on amendments to the Law on Copyright and Related Rights in accordance with the European standards and that soon the draft text of the Law with the included amendments will be sent for insight and opinion to all interested parties before it enters the government procedure.

The President of the European Federation of Journalists, Mogens Blicher Bjeregrerd, informed about the efforts of the Federation for improvement of the European framework related to copyright and rights of journalists. He pointed out that copyright protection is an important precondition for improving the economic situation of the media workers and that they are entitled to compensation when their copyright works are published in the media.

The participants also considered the legal specifics of the Law on Copyright in the context of the work of the media, especially from the perspective of the professional online media that suffer the most from the copy-paste journalism. Goran Mihajlovski and Aleksandar Damovski, both editors running the online media Sdk.mk and MKD.mk, respectively, cited the issue of unauthorized downloading of content from their media, noting that there were examples of court cases when some of the courts did not recognize their Internet portals as media.

Neda Zdraveva, professor at the Faculty of Law "Iustinianus Primus" pointed out that not all media products are copyright works. "Media products that are usually transmission of official texts of a political, legislative and judicial nature, as well as other daily news that have the character of ordinary - media information, simple facts and data cannot be considered copyright", said Zdraveva. According to her, in order for the media information to be considered a copyright work, it is necessary for the author or the journalist to have his own intellectual contribution in their creation.

workshop 16 17 12 2020 2The concept of collective copyright management and the legal practice in copyright protection of journalists and media workers were the focal topics for the second day of the workshops. The participants raised the question of unauthorized downloading of copyrighted photographs and how can the self-regulation and mediation help overcome the problem of unauthorized downloading of audiovisual content.

Arbnora Mehmeti, a photo reporter in the Meta.mk news agency, pointed out the problem of media copying photos, and the same goes for the political parties, emphasizing that all photos, even on the Internet, were created by someone, and care must be taken on respecting the copyrights.

Lawyer Natalija Milenkova pointed out that the practice has shown that it is much easier to prove authorship in photographs, while in journalistic texts it is more complicated to prove the violation of copyright, especially when there is a drastic change of the original text.

The general conclusions from the two-day event were the need for amendments of the Law on Copyrights in order to further recognize the copyright of the journalistic works, which would be considered as an important aspect in future court proceedings in which journalists would claim their rights. According to the current practice, the costs of court proceedings before the civil courts are expensive and that is one of the reasons why journalists and photojournalists rarely dare to sue, which results in a very modest court practice. High administrative costs in litigation can also lead to closure of some online media outlets that have been found to have published photos without prior consent of the authors. Additional training of judges is needed on these topics in the Macedonian judiciary, whether it is a civil or criminal court, given that there is very little practice when it comes to these acts. This is especially important in the long run, because the media workers have greater confidence in the justice system only if there fair judgments that are in line with the ECtHR practice.

The event was organized as part of the "Promoting Media and Information Literacy and Strengthening Independent Media in the Western Balkans" project implemented by the Albany Associates from London in partnership with regional media development organizations, including the Macedonian Institute for Media. The project is funded by the British Government.