White paper – a copyright policy for creativity and innovation in the European Union

In this White Paper, the Commission has presented its views on the main issues and possible course of action with respect to a number of policy questions and suggested further analysis on a number of others. Policy decisions on the issues raised in this document should be considered during the upcoming 2014-2019 legislative period.

A number of parameters matter for the design and functioning of copyright systems: the definition of rights and of exceptions to rights, the mechanisms for upholding those rights, and the licencing infrastructure. Considering the cross-border nature of how digital content is disseminated, there is a need to identify common solutions. Flexibility for national solutions should be preserved whenever possible, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle.

Since the adoption of the Information Society Directive (InfoSoc Directive), widespread broadband connectivity and digital technologies have reshaped the ways in which content is created, distributed and accessed. Mobile internet is becoming a common feature, storage capacity has increased exponentially and the cost of copying and disseminating content has radically diminished. Sharing content is extremely easy through dedicated platforms with cloud computing, offering great potential for providing services.

Services based on streaming rather than “download-to-own” systems offer features that radically change and “personalise” the consumer experience. User-generated content (UGC) platforms have become a popular phenomenon and one of the main channels for the distribution of content. In parallel, the ease of digital production and online dissemination has vastly expanded the scope for individuals to self-publish. Digital technologies have also made their way into education and cultural institutions, improving access to knowledge and heritage, particularly through digitisation.

These changes have had an impact on the complex value chain for the production, distribution of and access to copyright works. New actors, mainly online services and platforms, compete with existing players in sectors as diverse as book and newspaper publishing, music, film and television. Innovative business models for the dissemination of content, often based on advertising or data management revenue, continue to be developed.

At the same time, the widespread unauthorised distribution of content free rides on the creators’ intellectual efforts, and on existing and new legal business models. It is a greatly disruptive factor to the creative industries and a challenge for policy makers. These evolutions affect the allocation of value among market participants and, along with a number of factors other than copyright, widen the set of choices available for consumers, change their expectations and affect the way revenue flows in the internet economy.

In principle, lowering the level of copyright protection can, in the short term, have a static, downward effect on the cost of access to existing creative works for consumers and for institutional (e.g. educational or cultural establishments) and corporate users (in particular the internet economy). It could lead to lower prices and possibly less costly innovation. However, that would reduce creators’ ability to reap the gains from their work – and producers’ and publishers’ capacity to recoup the investment needed to bring works to the market.

The economic incentive to create and to invest in new works could weaken, with the dynamic, medium- to longer-term effect being that the production of creative content could be reduced. The faster the rate of obsolescence of creative content, the more dominant the dynamic over the static effect becomes. The trade-off has an important practical relevance for the sustainability of the value chains that are based on copyright works, particularly when professionally produced.