Swiss media to receive money from Internet giants in future

If a major search engine shows excerpts from newspaper articles in its search results, the online service should have to pay a fee for this in the future. This is what the Federal Council is proposing. On Wednesday, it opened the consultation on the so-called ancillary copyright.


The core of the bill is that international corporations should be obliged to pay a levy to Swiss media for the dissemination of their journalistic content. According to the Federal Council, media professionals should also benefit from this.

Today, the offerings of search engines, social media and multimedia platforms are largely based on the journalistic achievements of classic publishing media. Due to their brevity, the text and image previews used - so-called snippets - have not yet been protected by copyright. As a result, media companies and media professionals today receive no remuneration from the providers of online services for the use of their services.

Only large online services affected

This is now to change. Because online services profit to a large extent from the services of journalistic media, the Federal Council considers compensation of journalistic media for their services to be justified in principle, as it wrote.

According to the consultation draft, only portals with an average number of users of at least ten percent of the Swiss population per year - currently around 900,000 users - would be subject to payment. According to initial estimates by the federal government, online services such as Google, Linkedin, Tiktok, Twitter, Xing and YouTube would be covered by the regulation.

The exploitation of rights to media content would be handled by a collecting society. This would collectively represent the interests of media companies and media professionals and negotiate the amount and modalities of remuneration with the online services subject to remuneration. According to the Federal Council, smaller and regional media companies should also benefit from the remuneration.

No consequences for media users

The Federal Council leaves open the question of whether the sharing of media texts and images by users of social media also leads to a remuneration obligation on the part of the providers. Two variants are being debated. However, the setting of pure hyperlinks is to remain free of charge. According to the Federal Council, the new regulations should have no consequences for Internet users.

The publishers' association has been calling for a performance protection right for some time. The work of journalists must be protected from the overpowering influence of the tech giants. For search engines, journalistic content is an important factor for their success.

When revising copyright law in 2019, Parliament had refrained from introducing a performance protection right for journalistic media. Among other things, it wanted to wait for developments in the EU. There, most member states have now implemented the new ancillary copyright directive.

Not solution to all problems

The background to the discussion about ancillary copyright is the difficult economic situation of media companies. One reason for this is that advertising money is increasingly flowing out to Internet corporations. It is disputed whether a performance protection right could generate significant financial contributions for journalistic media. The additional revenues could not be estimated at present, the Federal Council wrote.

Justice Minister Elisabeth Baume-Schneider had already tempered expectations at the end of April. "I cannot and will not promise too much: This draft alone will not solve the structural economic problems of the industry," she said at the Swiss Press Awards ceremony in Bern.

The consultation on the amendment of the Copyright Act will last until September 15, 2023. (SDA)

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