Digital Economy

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The Digital Economy Research Programme

Copyright issues in Digital Media

The shift from analogue to digital technology has caused a very substantial reduction in production and distribution costs for digital media such as music, film, books and news. This, in turn, affects copyright protection, business models and revenue for media producers and copyright holders, and consumer welfare. Copyright protection and remuneration of rights holders have become major issues in the media industries. At the same time, digitisation has vastly increased the supply of media products for consumers. Despite a rapid shift to online distribution, transaction costs are still relatively high in EU media markets because they remain fragmented across countries and distribution channels. 

All this has triggered a debate in the EU on the need to revise EU Directives related to copyright and audio-visual media. The European Commission is committed to adapting the regulatory setting to these new technologies and presenting policy proposals in 2015 and 2016. The public debate on copyright is often very partisan and marked by the absence of empirical evidence. This research looks at copyright from an empirical economics perspective and aims to fill major holes in the empirical evidence gap, thereby contributing to a more constructive debate. 

The objectives of this research are:

  • To estimate the extent of copyright infringement and displacement of legal sales in digital media and to measure the effectiveness of measures to enhance copyright protection on the internet.
  • To investigate the patterns of cross-border availability and accessibility of copyright-protected digital media in the EU and to examine the impact of different types of barriers – including cultural diversity, the EU copyright regime and commercial restrictions – on consumer and producer welfare.
  • To estimate the impact of digitisation on the production of creative media works and how it affects the prime objective of copyright: stimulation of artistic creativity. From a public policy perspective it is important to get a better picture of the net impact of the potentially positive (reduction in production and distribution costs) and negative (pressure on revenue, increased piracy) effects of digitization on consumer and producer welfare. This is an empirical question.

The project has produced a number of studies on possible substitution between legal and copyright-infringing media distribution on the internet and on cross-border availability of media products in the EU and on the welfare impact of digitization.


List of studies


Scientists Published Working Papers Past Projects