European Film distributors voice concerns about potential outcomes of Digital Single Market Strategy
Europe’s film distribution industry welcomes the Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy which contains many positive elements and goals that distributors share. Nevertheless, Europa Distribution and the International Federation of Film Distributors’ Associations (FIAD) still have some concerns about the Commission’s plans for copyright and geo-blocking. Film distributors fear that in practice both the value of film rights and the choices available to European audiences would decrease.
Yesterday the European Commission published a Communication on a Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe in which they proposed to increase cross-border access and end geo-blocking whilst simultaneously “respecting the value of rights in the AV sector.”
However, for European film distributors it is unclear how the Commission can increase cross-border access by changing Europe’s copyright rules, whilst respecting and maintaining the value of rights in the film sector. Commissioner Andrus Ansip has said at the presentation of the Strategy that he does not intend to break territoriality – a welcome announcement – but it seems the policy options at their disposal could in practice be just as damaging as mandatory multi-territorial licensing.
Jelmer Hofkamp, Secretary General of the International Federation of Film Distributors’ Associations’ (FIAD) outlined his concerns: “We of course welcome the Commission’s appreciation of the complexities of the audiovisual sector in the fast-changing digital era, the intention to fight copyright infringement, and the statements that they ‘won’t break territoriality’ and that ‘geo-blocking cannot be deemed unjustified’. Nevertheless, it still begs the question of what they will do in the copyright reform to increase cross-border access to European films. The reality is that the options left on the table could be very harmful.”
Christine Eloy, General Manager of Europa Distribution continued: “As curators, promoters and investors, film distributors want to reach as big an audience as possible, on physical and on online services. We are very concerned by the possible tools the Commission has in mind. 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".
"Making borders permeable would affect the distributors' ability to release a film at the best moment to reach the local audience. It would drastically increase the risk of investment of buying and promoting the film. And because the audiovisual sector works as an eco-system, it would not harm only distributors: by buying the rights for the films they release, they are one of the most important sources of financing for the films. If the risk is higher and the revenues are lower, investments in production will decrease. In the end it is the circulation of films that will be at stake, and the result will be just the opposite of what the Commission wants.”
Jelmer Hofkamp adds: “If you were to assess the winners and losers you have to say the ones who benefit from this would most likely be the existing big global platforms. The Commission’s rhetoric and expressed intentions are all well and good but what we care about is how their policy instruments will affect the independent film sector and European audiences in practice. At the moment the prospects do not look good.”
The copyright reform is still in its early stages and the Commission has stated that all options are still on the table. Nevertheless, we feel this Digital Single Market Strategy is clearly limiting those options. It is clear that more thinking time needs to be dedicated to how the policy options will affect film production, acquisition and distribution to audiences.
The Creative Europe schemes, such as Audience Development or Online Distribution are already supporting projects experimenting new ways of releasing and giving access to more films. Europa Distribution and FIAD think that these tools can lead to more availability, access and higher circulations, without undermining the vulnerable foundation of the film sector.
June 11, 2013
European Commission Crosses Red Lines
European audiovisual industry strongly rejects the de facto inclusion of audiovisual services in the TTIP.
The undersigned organisations express their deep concern and dismay at recent proposals made by EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht on the subject of audiovisual services and the negotiation mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US (TTIP).
In a purely tactical move the European Commission has recently proposed the introduction of so called ”red lines” into the negotiating mandate laying down certain parameters allegedly safeguarding Europe’s audiovisual sector. However, with this proposal, European audiovisual policy would clearly be included in the ’negotiation mass’. This 'exclusion through inclusion' approach would greatly put at risk autonomous regulation in Europe.
What is really at stake is Europe’s capacity to handle the transition to the digital economy and an online market place which today is completely dominated by American giants such as Amazon, Apple iTunes, Google or Netflix. This encompasses a wide range of policy fields.
With the inclusion of audiovisual services in the negotiation, the European Commission is clearly expressing its intention to make commitments for online audiovisual services in the TTIP. On 23 May 2013, Trade Commissioner De Gucht stated to the European Parliament: "No one will touch the existing quotas or the necessary policy space to adjust our policy in view of the technological change; but, on the other hand, we do not believe there could be a serious argument in favour of increasing such space, for example by reserving the right to forbid foreign movies and TV programmes, for example, on video-on-demand services."
The very inclusion of "new" audiovisual services by the Commission in its draft mandate as well as the latest statements by Commissioner De Gucht are jeopardizing Europe’s freedom to deploy both existing and future measures that may be needed in order to create a level playing field between offline and online services – on both sides of the Atlantic – at a time of major change for the audiovisual sector. By doing so, the Commission disregards 20 years of consistent policy making aimed at defending a certain approach to media regulation, culminating in the success of the UNESCO Convention for Cultural Diversity. It is also at odds with the position of the European Parliament and a significant number of Ministers for Culture.
April 24, 2013
European Cinema Welcomes Commission Support and Calls for Formal Exclusion of Audiovisual from Negotiation Mandate
Eurocinema, Europa Cinemas, Europa Distribution, Europa International, FIAD, SAA and UNIC welcome Commissioner De Gucht’s commitment to maintaining Europe’s cultural diversity and call for him to guarantee this formally in the negotiating mandate. The organisations, representing European producers, cinemas, distributors, sales agents and authors, call on the European Commission to back up its statement of support for cultural diversity by clarifying the negotiation mandate for the EU-US trade agreement. Commissioner de Gucht’s declaration of support, while welcome, does not take audiovisual of the negotiating table. If the Commission’s commitment is as strong as Commissioner de Gucht’s words, then the European Commission should formally exclude audiovisual, including for online, from the negotiation mandate. As Europe’s audiovisual and cinema industries adapt themselves to the digital age, the European Commission must ensure that Europe is able to develop its own presence in the online market for audiovisual services. To open up audiovisual services through the trade agreement risks stunting that development and leaving the path for other, non-European operators to dominate. The aforementioned organisations underline that the European Commission will, as enshrined in the European Treaty, need the unanimous support of the Council to be able to approve the negotiation mandate. Within 24 hours over 1,000 European citizens have signed a petition put forward by 80 renowned film-makers from across Europe and beyond. The petition calls for cultural diversity to be guaranteed ahead of the negotiations.