PARIS — The European Commission’s so-called Single Digital Market plan, unveiled on May 7, was created to help Europe embrace the digital revolution, but key industry figures across the globe have deemed the 16-point proposal as vague as it is worrisome.
Indeed, the E.C. appears to want to have its cake and eat it too. Andrus Ansip’s claim that the Commission intends to save territorial rights in the film sector while axing geoblocking and amending copyright laws is a contradiction in itself, says Christine Eloy at Europa Distribution, an org which represents 160 distribs.
Per Eloy, these reforms would be just as damaging as mandatory multi-territorial licensing, leading to a depreciation of the value of film rights and a disruption of film financing models.
“It would be unworkable if a film is available on VOD in one European country, that all Europeans citizens outside this country could also have access to it. This would affect the media chronology and it could lead to a huge disruption of the market; less creation and smaller audiences for European films,” Eloy added.
“Mr. Ansip has made his position as to removal of geo-blocking very clear – this goes directly against cultural diversity and creative freedom in Europe,” lamented Martin Moszkowicz at Constantin Films.
Added Moszkowicz, “We are not selling cars: Passive sales (under the new regulations, content may be viewed but not advertised outside of its market) are not an option unless the passive seller owns the underlying rights — both as to the right in question and as to the territory in question.”
The copyright reform aims to reduce the differences between copyright law in various countries and allow for wider online access to works across the EU — often called portability.
But Jelmer Hofkamp, general manager of the International Federation of Film Distributors’ Associations’ (FIAD), said the most pressing question today is to determine how the E.C. will amend copyright laws to increase cross-border access to European films. “The reality is that the options left on the table could be very harmful,” pointed out Hofkamp.
The industry also fears the Commission, having been forced into turnaround by the frontal opposition of the German and French government on slashing international shoot rebates across Europe, for example, will now try to fast-track these proposals into the statute books.
Meanwhile, French Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin and her Italo counterpart Dario Franceschini have been working together and recently issued a common position paper on the single digital market draft legislation. In this paper they said they are in favor of “harmonizing” European digital copyright legislation, but also underlined the “fundamental role” of national creative copyright in supporting “cultural diversity.”
“The key thing is that I must be able to optimize the value of my digital rights at a time when other revenue streams, like home video and TV, are drying up,” said one producer who preferred not to be named. “Frankly, I have not understood yet whether the new EU rules will favor, or hinder that. Or whether, instead, they will just help Netflix,” he added.
The E.U. is expected to deliver its 16 points of action by the end of 2016. The European Council will be meeting on June 25 and 26 to examine the proposals.
John Hopewell and Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.