Why the Copyright Act being passed may mean the liquidation of many media


The MPs did not listen to the media's appeal, now it's time for the senators. This concerns the amendment of the Copyright Act, which is the implementation of the provisions of the EU directive regulating the issue of remuneration for the use of works. As the largest Polish publishers warn, the regulations in the form adopted by the Sejm are very unfavourable for the media and may lead to the closure of many of them.

The amendment to the copyright law passed by the Sejm implements the EU directive on remuneration for the use of works – including articles, by search engines, social media and streaming platforms.

The regulations introduce a new concept of exclusive right, which introduces the issue of remuneration from Google, Meta (Facebook) and Microsoft (e.g. the Bing search engine) for the use of content prepared by the media.

Polish media appeal to politicians. READ MORE >>>

What is the problem?

According to the wording of the regulations voted by MPs, the media, i.e. publishers, both small and large, are to establish the rules and the amount of remuneration with the technology giants themselves. Directly or through the intermediation of collective management organizations.

Experience from other countries has shown that this is a long-term and difficult process, hence the amendment by the Left MP, Daria Gosek-Popiołek, which assumes some facilitation. Namely, if an agreement is not reached within three months from the submission of the application to start negotiations, the parties may apply to the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection for mediation. If mediation does not bring results within three months, the President Office of Competition and Consumer Protection could establish the terms of remuneration by his decision.

In addition, there was a proposal to precisely define when a publisher is entitled to remuneration and for large technology corporations to be obliged to provide publishers with data to determine its amount. The amendments proposed by Daria Gosek-Popiołek responded to an appeal by publishers addressed to MPs and senators.

Publishers appeal to politicians

Internet search engines (e.g. Google) and social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) do not create journalistic materials. It is thanks to the media and the journalists working in them that we learn about the most important events in the country and around the world.

It is journalists who verify fake news and create quality journalism. They protect us from disinformation and check the government. Independent media are the foundation of democracy.

Google and Meta benefit from the work of the media by placing journalistic content on their sites, but they block user traffic. As a result, Big Techs get most of the advertising revenue.

Before the vote in the Sejm, the members of parliament received a letter signed by the largest Polish publishers, in which they indicated that the project was disadvantageous for the Polish media, “worsens their situation and may consequently lead to the bankruptcy of many media companies”.

It was pointed out that publishers may have no choice but to switch to a model in which content will be available only for a fee, “which will pose a threat to fundamental democratic values, to media pluralism, and will open space for disinformation and manipulation.”

“For the good of Poland and democracy, we cannot allow this!” the publishers appealed.

The signatories of the letter stated that they still believe that it will be possible to introduce “changes and provisions that will ensure that the implemented regulations allow for fair competition and will reflect the interests and needs of all parties, and will not favor technology companies and consolidate their dominance on the digital market in Poland.”

The appeal to politicians included a request to include in the project of implementing the directive solutions that “will enable Polish publishers to continue operating in Poland and compete on equal terms with technology giants”.

It was pointed out that solutions such as the arbitration mechanism and ensuring fair remuneration for creating and publishing content used by global technology companies are solutions that have appeared in other countries belonging to the European Union.

The letter was signed by:

– Maciej Kossowski, president of the Employers' Association of Digital Publishers,

– Katarzyna Białek, CEO of ZPR Group,

– Bartosz Hojka, CEO Agora,

– Aleksander Kutela, CEO Ringier Axel Springer,

– Artur Potocki, CEO of Interia,

– Jacek Świderski, CEO Wirtualna Polska.

The Senate is the last resort

However, the MPs of the Civic Coalition, Third Way and Confederation rejected the aforementioned amendments of the Left, which introduced changes to the bill that the publishers had called for. Now they are to return to the Senate, and support for them was declared on the X portal, formerly Twitter, by the senator of the Left, Anna Górska, writing: “I declare that we will fight for free media in the Senate”.

The next Senate session will be held on July 4.

Media and social platforms

During the 14th edition of the European Financial Congress, a debate was held on the competitiveness of media and the diversity of content with the growing dominance of global digital platforms. During the panel discussion, the problem of the dependence of Polish media on global platforms such as Google or Facebook was also raised.

– The level of dependence on global platforms when it comes to acquiring users for our content has increased dramatically in the last two decades. While 20 or 15 years ago it was something from the 'nice to have' category, now they are sources of traffic without which it is hard to imagine development, investments and even current work. All of this is subordinated to the traffic we receive from Facebook or Google. This is of course a problem, because these platforms are unpredictable – said Jacek Świderski, CEO of Wirtualna Polska Holding SA.

The current law has a real impact on the media world – journalists may lose their jobs, editorial offices will disappear, and viewers and readers will no longer find credible content, will not distinguish fake news from truth, will not watch investigative reports. What is needed here is a journalist, not an algorithm.

Read more at: The difficult situation of media in Poland. “Rapidly becoming poorer”

Main image source: Shutterstock

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