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Chris Dodd: MPAA to Support Europe Industries Against E.U. Digital Plans (EXCLUSIVE)

MPAA chairman also raises concerns over ‘new generation’ piracy in Europe

BERLIN – The Motion Picture Assn. of America will stand “cheek by jowl” with European film and TV industries in their battle to preserve territorial licensing in Europe, MPAA chairman Christopher Dodd said Wednesday at the Berlin Film Festival.

In an interview with Variety, Dodd said he would be playing “a supportive role” in the European industry’s efforts to air its objections to a proposal for borderless access in Europe to movies and TV online. The chief concern appears to be the European Commission’s wish to extend the so-called “country of origin” principle to cover digital services, meaning that E.U. broadcasters could carry their online programming in other countries if they have cleared the rights in their own home country.

Although rights-holders would be allowed to opt out of such arrangements and retain their rights in other E.U. countries, entertainment execs fear that most European producers won’t have the bargaining power to insist on that in their negotiations with the big broadcasters they rely on to finance their work.

Opposition to the commission’s proposal for pan-E.U. digital licensing of broadcaster programming is led by France and Germany. France’s Ministry of Culture had openly expressed its opposition. The upper house of Germany’s parliament has also expressed concern over whether the commission sufficiently takes into account rights-holders’ interests.

After an industry breakfast at the Berlinale on Wednesday, Dodd planned to raise the issue with the German Federal Film Agency and the German trade body SPIO on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Our office spends a lot of time working with our European counterparts,” said Dodd, adding that he was “cautiously optimistic” because many of the E.U.’s 28 member states have come to realize the importance of exclusive territorial licensing to their national film industries.

But there is no time for complacency, he added. Work groups at the European Parliament and the European Council will be considering the commission’s country of origin proposal in detail over the next “few months,” Dodd said.

Dodd also underscored the MPAA’s concern over new -generation piracy. He cited set-top boxes using Kodi open-source media-player apps that facilitate access to a multitude of sites with illegal content, such as 160 options for downloading the movie “Bridge of Spies” illegally. The set-top boxes can be bought for as little as $40 on Amazon. Kodi now has 38 million users, up 97% between 2015 and 2016; Spotify has around 40 million paying customers.

“The $64,000 question is what can be done about such illegal use of the Kodi platform,” Dodd said.

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