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SWD IA on the EU copyright modernization – impacts of baseline and first options for press publishers

Baseline option

Without intervention at EU level, legal uncertainty in this sector is expected to increase and publishers’ bargaining position would further weaken. The loss of print revenues is not expected to be compensated by the increase of online revenues. Online revenue streams feature smaller margins, as the competition for digital advertisement revenues is tough and free-access press items are widely available. Moreover, access to news through smartphones is increasing every year. As advertising revenues linked to access through smartphones are lower than through computers, this evolution of news consumption would make overall revenues decrease.

In this scenario, service providers may be willing to agree on the use of publishers’ content in a satisfactory way for both publishers and themselves, as some of them do today. However, it is difficult to envisage whether these agreements will be kept or extended in the long term if there are no external incentives, particularly as this market is constantly evolving. Publishers would still face difficulties to license their publications or prevent unauthorised uses thereof. In the long term, the quality of their content and the reputation of their brands may be affected. Legal uncertainty as regards publishers’ ability to receive compensation for uses under exceptions would persist.

A decline in the publishing industry would have a negative impact on rightholders who depend on this sector. Journalists, photographers and other authors would continue to see their contributions to publications being reused by services other than the publishers they have transferred their rights to, without getting any appropriate income in return. As a result, the quality of journalism may be negatively affected in the medium term.

Under this scenario, some online service providers would continue negotiating the use of publications with publishers on the basis of the transferred rights as it is the case, for instance, of some media monitoring and analysis organisations which already pay licence fees to publishers. Others would continue to use the publications without licence or other commercial agreement. Finally, it should be noted that a decrease of the number or quality of press publications could be generally negative for service providers, as they would have less content to base their business models on.

Under the baseline scenario, incentives to create and invest in publications would largely remain the same, which may negatively affect the number of publications in the medium term. This would entail negative social impacts, including regarding cultural diversity, media pluralism and the availability and findability of a wide variety of publications for consumers.

This option would have no impact on copyright as property right (Article 17 of the Charter), since there will be no change to current copyright rules. The right to freedom of expression and information (Article 11 of the Charter), which includes the pluralism of the media, may be negatively affected in the long run if the sustainability of the press industry is at stake.

Option 1

Encouraging stakeholders’ dialogue and cooperation on finding solutions concerning the dissemination of press publishers’ contents

The non-binding nature of the stakeholders’ dialogue would make the impacts of this option and its effectiveness to solve the problems raised by publishers mainly depend on the willingness of the stakeholders to participate in it and to take commitments. The complexity of the market and the variety of players and business models, as well as their unequal bargaining power and the opposed views of the relevant stakeholders as to how the reuse of press content benefits the other party, are all factors which may limit the effectiveness of this option.

As a result, the impacts of this option are expected to be rather limited and only slightly better than the baseline scenario. This option would not solve the specific problem concerning publishers’ ability to receive compensation from uses of their publications under exceptions (which can only be addressed through legislation). In all, these limited impacts may not make up for the costs related to the participation in the dialogue, considering in particular that many publishers are SMEs.

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