The Copyright Directive is still being transposed across the European Union and we are unfortunately witnessing important variations in terms of transposition between Member States, some more worrying than others.
Most recently, we are concerned to see the Czech transposition – which was adopted by the Senate following late amendments in the process – go way further than the text of the Directive itself, setting the stage for fundamental threats to the business models and very existence of digital, independent, and innovative media publishers.
The Czech transposition is a case in point of a negative implementation of the Directive. The text agreed at EU level includes leeway regarding the interpretation of “very short extracts”, which allows for publishers active in the digital environment to have their content referenced on online platforms if they so decide. In Czechia, the transposition introduces very high fines if rules are not followed, but it fails to provide key definitions, for example for “very short extracts”, who is a “publisher”, and what is “discriminatory product change”. It is no surprise therefore that Czech Competition Authority and the Senate Constitutional Committee have raised concerns. The transposition does simply not provide sufficient legal certainty.
Having ones content referenced on search engines is one of the key elements of the success of our members’ businesses, as it allows their content being found and leading to increased traffic and reach of readers. The Directive gives all publishers – big or small – the right to autonomously decide how to let their content be discovered and how they want to make money with that content.
As a consequence of the Czech transposition, Google decided to remove the display of previews in Google search and News. This is a very negative development for small and local publishers. It evokes extremely bad memories from what happened in Spain before the Copyright Directive debate started at EU level, and which led to many outlets closing. We want such a scenario to be avoided, and call on lawmakers to take the positions of smaller and independent media in to consideration when drafting laws.
EIMP advocates for an environment that fosters innovative and modern ways of managing content rights, and in so doing contributing fundamentally to media pluralism and freedom. We call on the Czech authorities to bring the transposition in line with the Directive, and take the earliest opportunity to do so. Moreover, we call on other EU countries still in the process of transposing the Directive to refrain from penalizing publishers that rely on online channels to survive, as this will lead to the disappearance of outlets and an inevitable deterioration of the media pluralism landscape.