Misappropriation or unauthorised use

In many cases when digital media content is shared and used online without access to proper rights declarations and attribution this often leads to abuse or misappropriation of copyrights harming the legitimate creators and rightsholders.


Pirate websites offer all kinds of media content for illegal download, which causes damage amounting to several billion Euros annually as rightsholders do not receive any compensation for the illegal exploitation of their works.

To combat piracy, anti-piracy services adopt a centralised model wherein they download content from illegal platforms and use their own proprietary fingerprinting software to match the pirated files with the original files (or product metadata) provided by the creators and rightsholders. However, these types of models are often criticised for their lack of effectiveness, as they force publishers to choose only one provider and to incur significant expenses and internal efforts in making the actual media content available to the anti-piracy platforms.

Book digests

Other online platforms offer summaries of non-fiction works, schoolbooks, or textbooks. However, since a summary is considered a derivative work and a “non-free adaptation” of the original content, obtaining an adaptation licence is necessary for commercial use. Usually, publishers are reluctant to grant such licences due to concerns that the adaptations may interfere with their own rights and are difficult to control. Additionally, some purported summaries are actually full text or excerpts/chapters from the original work, rather than a proper digest and re-elaboration, creating direct competition with the original content. As a result, publishers are burdened with the expensive and time-consuming task of verifying whether these versions infringe upon copyright and are under the obligation to inform services or platforms of any infringements.

Fake attribution

There is growing concern around the unlawful republication of books on online platforms, which often involve false author or publisher attribution. This practice can be found on various self-publishing platforms, including some e-reader platforms. In these cases, cover images, author, publisher, or title information of valuable original works are used to sell fraudulent content. Despite being aware of such forgeries, some large online platforms do not take adequate action against illegal appropriations of works, even though this practice can constitute the offence of fraud under criminal law. Again, the burden to monitor infringements is on the publishers, forcing them to invest significant time and resources. Additionally, the argument that online platforms could not obtain knowledge without information by the rights holders only adds to the high inspection and enforcement costs.


In a misunderstanding of the limits of academic citation right, text passages, paragraphs or excerpts from textbooks or academic publications are not infrequently used in a different context or in a different publication without proper attribution and reference. To detect such cases of plagiarism, services need access to the actual media files of the publishers. They use fingerprints based on the original works within proprietary software to detect whether parts in different publications from different journals, websites and/or publishers match. This has the drawback that the services often need to be centralised and are relatively expensive as they need to index a very large catalogue to be effective. Decentralised approaches via identifiers such as ISCC can significantly increase the efficiency of fighting cases of plagiarism.

Unauthorised clips

Based on TV producers’ long-form audio-visual works users often create unauthorised short clips with summaries or best-of scenes including music and songs while disregarding the copyright requirement of obtaining a valid licence to do so. Youtube is the only platform that has developed an effective measure, the proprietary Content-ID fingerprinting service, which may route revenues to the legitimate rightsholders. An open, transparent, and standardised content-ID system would, however, benefit the entire ecosystem of platforms with derivative content

User generated content

Since the transposition of the DSM Directive into national law of European member states, service providers are subject to several new obligations. Article 17 of the DSM requires online platforms (OCSSPs) to make best efforts to acquire or clear the rights of content that has been published on their platforms or has been uploaded by the users of their services (UGC).

To benefit from the DSM and avoid misappropriation of content online, rightsholders need to publish reliable, accurate, and comprehensive metadata in a timely manner and make rights management information openly available and easily accessible for automated retrieval. It is in the rightsholders business interest to declare content and claim rights to online distributed works.

Children’s books and comics

On social media platforms, users share individual images as well as entire pages of children's books or comics without obtaining the necessary rights. Platforms are monetising such activity without fairly, appropriately, proportionally, and transparently remunerating creators and rightsholders.

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