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Film Industry Players at Karlovy Vary Ponder Threat of Digital Single Market in Europe

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic — If Sunday’s debate at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival on the European Union’s proposals to create a single market for digital content was any indication, even discussing changes is striking fear into filmmakers’ hearts.

“The European film industry is a very fragile ecosystem,” said Doris Pack, LUX Prize coordinator and former chairwoman of the committee on culture and education of the European Parliament, in opening a debate on copyright issues and the single-market idea, held at a 19th-century spa building during the fest.

Concerned Czech and regional producers filled a hot, sweaty hall to hear from Pack and European Parliament member Pavel Svoboda about whether Digital Single Market proposals outlined in a May strategy statement might move forward. The strategy is intended to remove barriers to e-commerce throughout Europe, and may end geo-blocking — which is when content can only be accessed in certain territories.

But the notion of creating a single digital market in Europe is generating heat even with no specific legal changes in process. Currently, most European films garner a major part of their funding by pre-selling distribution rights to individual territories on the continent. Any changes to the model like those being weighed by European Commission are eyed by bizzers with extreme suspicion.

Despite Svoboda’s frequent reassurances that the proposals are not going to result in new laws any time soon, producers are clearly on high alert. “We distribute 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in films so we care a lot that these movies are successful,” said the CNC’s Julie-Jeanne Regnault, who was representing the 31 members of the European Film Agency Directors (EFAD).

Industry-ites share some goals with the European Parliament, she added, such as improved access to films and other content by all EU members. But allowing a single deal for the entire continent would eliminate incentives for regional investors in films, argued Regnault.

The proposed changes, if adopted, “will disrupt the funding of films,” added Czech copyright attorney and soundtrack composer Petr Ostrouchov. Filmmakers, he argued, “should be free to decide in which territories they will offer their product or not.”

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