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Cannes: European Commission — Film, TV Could Be Exempted From Digital Plans

Piracy placed front-and-center in Commission's digital strategy

Peace has broken out between the European Commission and Europe’s film industry over the Commission’s plans for the movie industry’s digital future.

European Commissioner Gunther H. Oettinger signaled Sunday afternoon at the Cannes Festival that certain sectors of “sensitivity” such as movies and TV, could be exempted from the Commission’s plans for a Digital Single Market Strategy.

In another pronouncement that will be enthusiastically welcomed by Europe and Hollywood, anti-piracy initiatives will be a priority of the European Commission’s Digital Single Market policy, Oettinger announced.

Oettinger’s declarations rep a dramatic development. Unveiled by the European Commission on May 6, its DSM Strategy plans champion cross-border access, whereby people in the E.U. should have the right to access content across borders situated on digital platforms in other countries.

Opposed by the Motion Picture Assn. (MPA) and the Independent Film & TV Alliance (IFTA), that principle has had Europe’s film industry essaying Doomsday scenarios. A fully-blown DSM would destroy the possibility, for instance, of territory-by-territory pre-sale licensing, worth 37%-60% of a film’s financing, Anders Kjaerhaug, at Denmark’s Zentropa, argued at a panel yesterday in Cannes. Hollywood’s studios could also lose billions.

But speaking Sunday at a press conference, Oettinger, the European Commissioner in charge of the Digital Economy and Society, declared that “the first and most important point is what can be done against piracy.”

The Commission’s aim was “to realize a complete European digital single market” but that “could see several sectors – film, broadcasting and the sports sectors – being exempted,” he added.

“We want to come to a functioning single market for goods and products and services,” Oettinger said. “But we don’t want to damage our creative industries, the film sector.”

Oettinger’s words have been greeted with cautious enthusiasm. “There is a sense of hope because Oettinger is essentially saying that film and TV could be spared. A single digital market will not be imposed upon us unless we come to an agreement,” said “The Artist” director, Michel Hazanavicius, also president of France’s powerful ARP authors, directors and producers assn.

He added: “But we can’t hail this as a victory: It just means that the verdict is postponed, leaving us the opportunity to debate further and all get on the same page.”

Florence Gastaud, general manager of ARP, told Variety: The step forward is that the European Commission is now willing to do a last round of brainstorming with a small delegations of professionals in order to avoid getting pulled in too many directions and then deliver a coherent plan.”

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