The European Commission wants to make it easier for broadcasters like the BBC and Germany’s ZDF to make shows available online across the 28-nation EU under a planned copyright reform that is expected to meet fierce opposition from the media industry.
Under the EU executive’s plans outlined in a draft document seen by Reuters, broadcasters would be able to show content on their online platforms across the European Union after securing the rights in their home country, which the Commission hopes will allow them to distribute their own productions more widely.
The reform would make it easier for services such as the BBC’s iPlayer or Sky’s Sky Go to show their content online across borders, but it would not oblige them to do so, the document says.
However, the Commission will put in place a monitoring system to assess the cross-border availability of broadcasters’ online services.
The reform would apply to broadcasters’ catch-up TV services, which are only available for a limited time, and live streaming, but not their on-demand catalogues and online streaming platforms like Netflix, the document says.
Film and TV show producers as well as the sports industry staunchly oppose the reform. They fear it will lead to de facto pan-European licensing, diluting the value of exclusive rights and squeezing out smaller broadcasters who would be unable to afford pan-EU rights.
Films and TV shows are often financed by selling exclusive distribution rights on a country-by-country basis to secure investment.
The Commission does not expect the copyright reform to make it impossible to license films, TV shows and soccer matches on a territorial, or country-by-country, basis because rights holders could still ask broadcasters to block viewers in another country from accessing the content during licensing negotiations.
But rights holders and commercial broadcasters fear that a separate EU antitrust case involving Hollywood studios’ movie-licensing deals with British pay-TV group Sky UK could limit their ability to ask for content to be blocked for foreign viewers.
The EU’s antitrust arm has charged six US film studios, including Disney and Twentieth Century Fox, and Sky with illegally limiting access across the EU to movies shown on pay-TV channels.
Paramount Pictures, part of Viacom, settled with the Commission in July by agreeing to allow viewers outside Britain and Ireland to access films and other content broadcast by Sky UK online and via satellite.
Commercial broadcasters worry that the Commission’s planned reform coupled with competition law developments limiting their ability to stop viewers in other EU countries accessing their services could undermine territorial licensing.
The Commission has in the past said it does not want to undermine the film and TV industry’s financing model nor the principle of territoriality.