SWD IA on EU copyright modernisation – impacts of baseline option for digital retransmission

The legal uncertainty as to whether all rights relevant for the retransmission have been cleared faced by the retransmission service providers other than cable is expected to persist under the baseline option. As a result, those service providers can be expected to continue limiting their retransmission offers. Moreover, in view of the legal uncertainty, some market players might hesitate to launch innovative retransmission services or delay the launch in order to deal with licensing.

The baseline option would not have any direct impacts on costs. But neither would it alleviate the additional transaction cost burden for the retransmission service providers other than cable, resulting from the fact that they have to obtain licences not only from broadcasters and CMOs (like cable operators), but also from all the rightholders who have chosen to exercise their rights individually rather than transferring them to a broadcaster or mandating a CMO.

The impacts described above could be eliminated or mitigated in some MS, notably those in which the collective management regime already applies, as a result of national law (mandatory / extended collective management) or practical arrangements by the market players (voluntary collective management), to retransmission services other than cable or might become applicable to them in the future.

However, these solutions have led and are likely to continue leading to (i) lack of legal certainty in the market; (ii) fragmentation across the EU (different retransmission services falling within the scope of different licensing facilitation solutions in different MS) and (iii) significant time gaps between the emergence of an innovative retransmission service and the application of licensing facilitation mechanisms to it, if at all.

Under the baseline option, the ability of rightholders to generate revenues from the retransmission services other than cable would continue to vary depending on several factors: (i) whether a particular type of retransmission service falls within the scope of (mandatory or voluntary) collective management arrangements in a particular MS; (ii) the relative size of the right holder and his capacity to manage a network of licensing deals with numerous foreign retransmission service providers as well as the extent to which the right holder transfers his retransmission rights to broadcasters; (iii) the extent to which the providers of retransmission services other than cable actually enter into licensing deals with those rightholders who choose to exercise their rights individually or, on the contrary, rely on the “all-rights-included” licences granted by broadcasters.

In the scenario of no policy intervention, consumers could continue facing a sub-optimal market offer of TV / radio retransmission services. Consumers could be paying a higher subscription price due to a lesser choice of retransmission services than the one resulting from the situation of effective competition between a variety of existing market players and new entrants. However, as there are more elements that affect prices (e.g. whether premium or non-premium content is included, whether the service is bundled with other services), the concrete impact on the prices is difficult to predict.